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.