Book: Heather Hach
Music and Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin
Director: Anthony Williams
Reviewer: Clare White
Legally Blonde The Musical is a bit like candyfloss – pink, fluffy and syrupy sweet. Based on the 2001 film comedy starring Reece Witherspoon, its musical adaptation premièred on Broadway in 2007 and subsequently enjoyed successful West End and UK tour runs. This latest production, directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams, delivers an almighty sugar rush of feel-good fun.
When popular sorority girl and fashion student Elle Woods is dumped by her boyfriend Warner Huntington III for someone ‘more serious’, she decides to follow him to Harvard Law School to win him back and prove she can be ‘a serious girl, the type who wears black when no one is dead.’ – think Malibu Barbie with a brain and a heart. With the help of her Delta Nu sorority sisters, Elle makes it to Harvard, and despite jealous classmates, a sleazy professor and a murder trial, stays true to herself and her friends. It’s a humorous tale of blonde ambition and not judging a book by its cover.
Filling the pink stilettos of Elle Woods is no mean feat. Witherspoon set the bar high in the film, while subsequent ‘Elles’ Laura Bell Bundy and Sheridan Smith (Broadway and West End productions respectively) successfully made the character their own while retaining the charm of the much-loved blonde. Our heroine here is Lucie Jones, who shines in her first leading lady role. While her energy flags a little during some of the dance numbers, she captures Elle’s sweet nature and upbeat spirit and has a fabulous voice. Her duet of the title song Legally Blonde with David Barrett, who plays love interest Emmett, is particularly good.
Eastenders actress Rita Simons is another delight as Elle’s best friend Paulette and has a real impressive rocky edge to her voice. She is brilliantly comedic in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, where Elle teaches Paulette how to attract the attention of the opposite sex using the ‘Bend and Snap’ method. We’ll gloss over how this goes against the general female empowerment theme of the story – its tongue-in-cheek fun and best not to delve too deep!
Ex-Coronation Street and Emmerdale actor Bill Ward has a suitably commanding presence as arrogant Professor Callahan and Liam Doyle does a fine turn as Warner. However, it’s Paulette’s bulldog Rufus, played by two-year-old canine Chester from Solihull, who unwittingly steals the show – on this occasion the pooch was rather excited about his musical theatre debut and tried to hump his cast mates. ‘He’s a dirty boy…’ Paulette explained to a hysterical audience as she shook him off her leg.
The score, which includes the high-octane ‘Omigod You Guys’, There, Right, There and Riverdance inspired Ireland, is vibrant with laugh-out-loud lyrics, overall making it much funnier than the film. Positive, sung by the Delta Nu sorority as they advise Elle on how to win back her man from his new beau, is a particular favourite – ‘Keep it positive, and slap her to the floor, keep it positive, as you pull her hair and call her whore.’
While undoubtedly enjoyable, you get the feeling that both the script and the production might be running out of steam. For example, it’s fair to say some of the popular culture references used in the script 16 years ago haven’t been quite popular enough to remain in people’s psyche and make little sense now. It also seems that the budget for the set and wardrobe has been severely squeezed, which is a real shame, and some of the choreography is a little tired. That said, one of the stand-out moments comes at the start of Act II, courtesy of Helen Petrovna as fitness guru Brooke Wyndham in an energetic routine involving luminous skipping ropes for Whipped Into Shape.
Legally Blonde The Musical is a not-so-guilty pleasure. Funny and endearing, its smile-inducing, not-to-be taken seriously, light-hearted entertainment.
Runs until 11 November 2017 | Image: Contributed