Book: Heather Hach
Music: Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Director: Anthony Williams
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
It is the chick flick classic that tells the tale of Malibu homecoming queen and Delta Nu sweetheart turned Harvard graduate – a story that proves brains can come with beauty and one that has been capturing the hearts of teens and adults alike since it launched as a movie in July 2001.Now a full scale musical that has enjoyed stints on Broadway and the West End, Legally Blonde is currently showing at the Palace Theatre, in Manchester, as part of a national tour.
At the centre of this story is one of film and stage history’s most loveable blondes. It is of course Elle Woods, the protagonist that has been portrayed by stars including the fabulously talented Reese Witherspoon, Cilla actress Sheridan Smith and Coronation Street star Faye Brooks. This time, it is 2009The X Factor finalist and Eurovision contestant Lucie Jones stepping into the shoes of the bubbly and charismatic leading lady. Jones brings a goofier side to Elle than her predecessors, her exaggerated facial expressions and characteristics – while sometimes overplayed – often bringing hilarity into the audience. While she is not quite the triple threat, with her dancing lacking confidence, her vocals are simply stunning, suiting the smart yet sassy role perfectly, in particular in the numbers So Much Better and the title song Legally Blonde.
Her costars help in bringing energy, laughter and plenty of cheesiness to the show. Laura Harrison brings the fierce yet soft-centred Vivienne Kensington to life well, her voice being one of the most memorable of the talented cast, while the other ladies, including EastEnders actress Rita Simon as beautician Paulette Bonafonte and Helen Petrovna as Brooke Wyndham do a fantastic job of moving the storyline along and adding the ‘Omigod’ elements to the production. The boys too, do justice to their roles, namely David Barrett as the boy that finally gets the girl Emmett Forrest.
It is fair to say that Act Two far exceeds Act One with its large scale and frivolous numbers, the most memorable moment of all being the full ensemble rendition of There! Right There!. This show, produced by Martin Dodd for UK Productions and directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams, is jam-packed with all the iconic moments that made the film such a hit in the early noughties, from the bend and snap, to the inclusion of chihuahua Bruiser Woods (aka the show stealer), to plenty of pink – helping create a nostalgia while also keeping it fresh with plot twists and (if it’s possible) even more sparkle.
Improvements are needed, however, to the set, which is starting to look tired, and there are certain numbers which are more forgettable than others. The cast, also, just need to be wary of sight lines, with the illusion being spoilt on a few occasions by being able to see the actor/actress backstage.
That said, you can’t help but walk away from the theatre with a big smile on your face – especially given the end graduation medley to get the whole audience on their feet. This production makes it a legality that blondes not only have fun, but that they bring fun, and you would be hard-pressed to object to that.
Runs until 30 June 2018 | Image: Catherine Ashmore