Based on the glorious 2001 film, Carleigh Nicholls reviews Legally Blonde The Musical, which is currently touring around the UK.
“Ohmigod you guys!” The UK Tour of Legally Blonde The Musical at the New Wimbledon Theatre is seriously awesome. In the wake of Twitter’s #immodestwomen movement this past week, this feel-good musical’s positive message fits right in. Based on the classic 2001 film starring Reese Witherspon, this version has a lot to live up to, and Anthony Williams and James McCullagh’s production does not disappoint. The musical closely follows the plot of the film, and includes most of its famous lines and bits, including the “Bend and Snap.” After being dumped by her college boyfriend for not being serious enough, sorority girl Elle Woods gets into Harvard Law School to win him back. Along the way, Elle defies expectations and learns to be true to herself while also breaking stereotypes.
Heather Hach’s’ book fits well with Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s music and lyrics. While most of the musical is sung through, the spoken portions glide smoothly into song. The music is upbeat and catchy. Indeed, I could some hear passengers singing the songs on the train ride home. Standouts include “Ohmigod You Guys,” “Chip On My Shoulder,” and “So Much Better.” Anthony Williams’ choreography is energetic and fun to watch. The skip rope number “Whipped into Shape” is especially impressive, and Helen Petrovna, who plays fitness guru and defendant Brooke Wyndham, never misses a beat during the number. Designed by Jon Harris, Jason Bishop and David Shields, the set is bright and colourful, which fits the mood of the production. The sorority house provides the main backdrop, with its Grecian columns framing the set. The Grecian theme is picked up in other aspects as well. Elle’s sorority sisters humorously provide a Greek chorus during certain songs.
Receiving a standing ovation on Press Night, Lucie Jones’ portrayal of Elle Woods was charming. Wisely, she has refrained from impersonating Reese Witherspoon, and has instead brought her own goofy spin to the role. Her voice is spectacular, and she really succeeds in the comedic moments that the role requires. Yes, Elle may be ditzy, but she never comes off as stupid. Jones shows that beauty and brains are not incompatible, and femininity is not something to be ashamed of. The audience roared with cheers, when she appeared in court in her bright pink dress. Rita Simon’s beautician Paulette Bonafonté is likewise a delight. Her “Ireland” number in particular is a highlight. David Barrett plays the likeable Emmett Forrest. His role has wisely been expanded in this version, making him more than just a love interest, but also a loyal and supportive friend. Interestingly, Elle’s ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, played by Liam Doyle, is also portrayed somewhat more likeable than his film counterpart, with some of his jerkier lines cut. Rounding out the main cast, Bill Ward plays the brutish Professor Callahan and Laura Harrison plays Elle’s rival Vivienne Kensington. Not to forget the canine cast: Elle’s chihuahua Bruiser garnered many oohs and awes from the audience. Paulette’s English bulldog, Rufus, however, adorably suffered from stage fright.
The musical is bright and sparkly, and never takes itself too seriously. I left the theatre with a big smile on my face. “We girls have to stick together,” both Elle and Vivienne exclaim during the musical, and indeed, stick with Elle for a feel-good night out.
Legally Blonde the Musical will be playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until June 23, 2018, before moving on to its next location in Manchester.
Feature Photograph: Robert Workman