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    Legally Blonde The Musical at New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham


    Oh My God, Oh My God, You Guys…after seeing Legally Blonde The Musical you will almost certainly find yourself singing tunes from the show.  It’s the sort of feel good show that will have you grinning and dancing in your chair.

    If you’re familiar with the 2001 film with the same title (although it was actually based on a book, who knew), you’ll be familiar with the story.  There are a few minor changes, but it is essentially the same story, and same heart-warming silliness that will completely win you over.

    The main role of Delta Nu sorority president Elle Woods is played by Lucie Jones, who represented the UK at the 2017 Eurovision contest and was a finalist in the X Factor.  The power of her voice is undeniably superb, but at times it felt like she was trying to less Elle Woods and more Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods – understandable because the film star is iconic in the role and the medium of film allows for a more nuanced portrayal.  There is clearly a lot of inspiration taken from the film, which adds a familiarity that boosts the enjoyment.


    It’s Elle’s split with Warner Huntington III, which creates a catalyst for her to study hard, pass the LSATs and head to Harvard Law to follow Warner and win him back.  Unlike the movie version, Liam Doyle’s Warner is portrayed with more complexity as a character helpless to the future mapped out for him.  But once Elle arrives at Harvard, she realises that it might not be as simple as she thought, thanks to a Machiavellian Professor Callahan, played superbly by Emmerdale and Coronation Street alumnus Bill Ward. Her classmates also pose a problem, namely Vivienne Kensington, played by Laura Harrison, a rival of Elle’s both at school and for Warner’s affections.

    But Elle is supported by love interest Emmett Forrest, played by David Barrett as a quiet, studious and slightly geeky outsider who empathises with Elle and helps encourage her. Emmett and Elle’s budding romance also provides some of the more tender scenes, particularly in songs like Chip on My Shoulder.  Elle also develops a strong friendship with beauty salon owner Paulette Bonafonte, played by Ex-Eastenders actress Rita Simons, who stole numerous scenes and whose rich, soulful voice was an absolute pleasure to listen to. Simons’ comic timing, particularly with her own love interest Kyle B O’Boyle, has the audience in stitches, particularly when it comes to her fascination with Irishmen.


    The first act suffers from a little too much set up for the story, but allows the second act to really shine.  Here the story unfolds and the songs become infectious. Despite everyone in the audience knowing how the story would pan out, there’s a real sense of joy at the happy ever after.  The show is full of laughs throughout, both in the action and the songs.  “Bend and Snap” is understandably an audience favourite, but the stand out songs for the night were “Omigod You Guys” and “Legally blonde Remix”.

    At times I did wonder how well the story had aged for a modern audience, but consideration seems to have been given to this.  Sure, the gay and lesbian characters are pretty stereotypical and out of context “There! Right There! (Gay or European?)” could feel a little uncomfortable; within the context of the show it feels like another layer of questioning judgements on how someone looks or acts, which is pretty much the point of the show.  The inclusion of the LGBT rainbow flag feels celebratory, and is a nice touch as Birmingham gets ready to celebrate Gay Pride Weekend.


    Legally Blonde The Musical is an enjoyable, uplifting piece of theatre which will have you wanting to dance your way home.  The actors are strong and their voices even more so, and whilst the film might be familiar, (lets face it, it was always an obvious ending), you will find yourself enchanted by Elle Woods.

    Legally Blonde The Musical is showing at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham from 21 – 26 May. Tickets are available from the venue’s website here.

    This was a press event. 


    Love From A Stranger at the New Alexandra Theatre

    3 Love from a Stranger - Helen Bradbury and Sam Frenchum -701 photo by Sheila Burnett

    A women dissatisfied with her life, meets a stranger and begins a whirlwind romance.  But how much can you really know about someone you’ve just met?  This is a question posed by Love From A Stranger, a play based on a short story by the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie.

    After winning a substantial amount of money and waiting on the return of her fiancé, Cecily Harrington’s (Helen Bradbury) life is in flux, when a charming stranger who comes to rent her flat instead sweeps her off her feet.  Despite protestations from her best friend and meddling aunt, Cecily marries the man, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum), and they relocate to a secluded cottage.  But the more Cecily gets to know Bruce, the more she realises she may not know him all the well at all. And with her loved ones so far away, and no phone in the house, who can she call on to sooth her fears?

    Agatha Christie’s work has a reputation for killing off characters, but Love From a Stranger makes the story more about mystery than murder.  The audience know it’s coming, but when – and who?  This is an eerie play which makes the audience work for the who-done-it and almost pulls the rug from underneath them.  Like modern procedural dramas, the play is peppered with nuggets of what might be to come, giving clues piece by piece as to what might be about to happen.  The first time the audience meets Bruce he is spotted just off to the side of the stage taking photos – there’s a slight glimpse of a peeping tom, something which is further hinted at when the couple relocate to the cottage.  But the notes in his mysterious book full of codes (or are they), his insistence of solitude for the newlyweds and sitting at the top of the stairs spying on Cecily.

    1 Love from a Stranger - Helen Bradbury and Sam Frenchum -266 photo by Sheila Burnett

    Whilst Sam Frenchum’s Bruce is the mysterious and temperamental villain, pulling his wife away from everyone she knows and reacting quickly and angrily, it’s Cecily who the audience is rooting for.  She could easily be portrayed as a character too docile and naïve, director Lucy Bailey and actress Helen Bradbury portray her as a more complex woman who simply wants more out of life.

    Love From A Stranger manages to build suspense and mystery impressively, something which can’t be easy in a large theatre.  Whilst there are two main sets, the first being Cecil and Mavis’ (Alice Haig) flat, the second act’s being the secluded cottage, pieces of the set shift to give a different perspective and allow the story to move on, but the displacement builds a sense of unease.  The use of light and sound between scene changes continues to build the tension further, making the audience jump and wonder what is coming next.

    Director Lucy Bailey has relocated the action to the 1950s, which makes for some lovely period costumes, and balances the turmoil of an increasing sense of freedom for women, whilst still being shackled by duty.  Though the clipped accented voices feel a bit old fashioned, even for the time period, the place manages to remain incredibly relevant; in an age of internet dating, I wonder what would become of Cecily and Bruce?

    Love From A Stranger is a carefully paced play which slowly builds the tension, allowing it to creep into the audience’s bones, building a crescendo, ready for the explosive ending.

    Love from a Stranger is at New Alexandra Theatre on Suffolk Street until Saturday 19th May.  To purchase tickets, visit:

    This was a press event. Photographs were taken by Shelia Burnett.


    Fat Friends the Musical at New Alexandra Theatre

    Fat Friends

    Fat Friends the Musical is a feel-good play with plenty of belly laughs. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    Reuniting the characters from Kay Mellor’s hit TV show, Fat Friends follows the struggles of a group of overweight friends who attend a slimming club based in Headingley, a suburb of Leeds.  Kelly has a larger-than-life personality but is struggling to fit into her dream wedding dress, lovelorn group leader Lauren is trying to find the man of her dreams, whilst Kelly’s father Fergus is just trying to keep the family chip shop open.

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    Rotterdam at Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham


    Alice is about to click send on an email to her parents to tell them she’s a lesbian, when her partner of seven years, Fiona, reveals that she has always thought she were a man and now wants to start living as one, as Adrian.

    As Adrian begins his transition, Alice wants to be supportive but is conflicted what this means for her: is she still a lesbian if she is in a relationship with Adrian, does she want to be in a relationship with him, and what about her work colleague Lelani? And what does this mean for Josh, Adrian’s older brother and Alice’s ex; will he finally move on from his own heartache at losing his girlfriend to his own sibling?

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    Testosterone at mac Birmingham

    image1Trans identity seems to be very much in the public eye at the moment, but a lot of the stories in mainstream media seem to be focused on the stories of trans women.  The role of the trans man, whether it’s less glamorous or perhaps more hidden, is one that seems to have been somewhat downplayed.  But Rhum and Clay in collaboration with Kit Redstone’s British Council Showcase  play Testosterone is less a play about trans identity and more a play about what it is to be a man, seen uniquely though the eyes of someone who has been watching, and wondering, how to be a man most of his life.

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    The Kite Runner at Birmingham Rep

    The Kite Runner 2018 - 4 RAJ GHATAK (Amir) and castPhoto Betty Zapata

    Following an outstanding run at London’s West End, The Kite Runner has landed in Birmingham and it is one of the most enthralling yet haunting productions I’ve seen on stage.

    Adapted by Matthew Spangler from Afghan-American Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Kite Runner tells a powerful father-son story of redemption, spanning several countries and generations.  It’s a powerful story that has already translated well onto a successful film, but after a raft of positive reviews for its West End run, the production has gone on a UK tour.

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    This Is Elvis at the New Alexandra Theatre

    5.This is Elvis_Pamela Raith Photography

    Celebrating 50 years since Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special,’  This is Elvis showing at The New Alexandra Theatre is a captivating part tribute act, part play which really brings the best of The King to modern audiences.

    This is Elvis tells the story behind Presley’s monumental return to performing live for the first time in seven years, pivoting away from his film career back to his musical roots.  More than a tribute show, the play charts the self-doubt and tensions behind the NBC show that became known as Elvis’ 68 Comeback Special and ultimately relaunched his music career.  But it doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of The King’s return, depicting the fractious relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker and avoidance of wife Priscilla, as well as self-doubt about his relevance to audiences of the time and hints at his alcohol and drug dependency.

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