Blonde sees everyone having fun

In the pink: Elle, Faye Brookes, with bruiser, and Emmett, Iwan Lewis. Picture: Johan Persson

Legally Blonde - The Musical

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

THE plot is wafer thin and as believable as a politician's promise while supermodels off their food have more flesh on their bones than the two dimensional characters but Legally Blonde does have a saving grace – its is fun, pure and unadulterated, fluffy, frothy – and pink – fun.

The story is simple. Elle Wood, played with vivacious, infectious enthusiasm by Faye Brookes, is a UCLA sorority girl and fashion student about to be engaged to fellow student Warner Huntington III, played with charming arrogance by Gareth Gates.

When the rich and ambitious Warner dumps her and heads off to Harvard Law School to find someone serious, our dizzy blonde heroine ups frocks and follows to win him back – beefing up her application to Harvard with a presentation by all her cheerleader mates from California to sing and dance her into the faculty – the clincher being Elle's song that she is doing it all for love . . . bless.

Her rival in love is fellow student and strictly business Vivienne, played with cold meanness by Tracey Penn, while drifting slowly into her heart is Emmett, battling his way through law school from the wrong side of the tracks.

He is first helping a new student, then becomes her friend and . . . well you can follow it yourself. Iwan Lewis, who has charm and a lovely voice incidentally, plays him with a quiet confidence that should stand him in good stead for more demanding roles..

We then have an ogre of an academic in Prof Callahan, Emmett's boss, played matter of factly by Andy Mace, who takes on four interns – no prizes for guessing three of them with the fourth a militant lesbian, Enid, played militantly by Gemma Baird.

Callahan takes on a big murder trial defending fitness guru Brooke Wyndham, played by Hannah Grover who leads one of the highlights of the show with a skipping rope routine in jail at the start of Act 2.

But it turns out the good prof is a sexual predator and when he tries it on with Elle and she tells him to go to . . . elle (sorry couldn't resist it) he sacks her.

Faye Brookes as Elle showing blondes can have fun - and brains - with Bruiser.

But Brooke was in the same Delta Nu sorority as Elle and the sisters have to stick together so she sacks the prof, engages Elle with Emmett walking out on the Prof to join her. Our legal eagle then brilliantly destroys the prosecution evidence, gets Brooke off, and everyone lives happily ever after.

There is even a sub-plot with lovelorn manicurist Paulette, played with a homely charm by Jennifer Ellison, finding her love in a UPS delivery guy, the muscle rippling Kyle, played, in muscle rippling style by Lewis Griffiths, who has the show-stopping line “I have a package for you”. Just because his middle name is Brendan and Paulette dreams of getting married in Ireland that is enough excuse for a big Riverdance number. Paulette and Kyle – and their numerous offspring - also live happily every after.

It's silly, lightweight, nonsense – but then again the film on which it was based was no Citizen Kane – but it is enjoyable nonsense and for a couple of hours you can forget all your troubles, and any concept of reality, and sit back and be entertained.

The Broadway set design by David Rockwell works well – I especially liked the pen and ink perspective backdrop for the prison – and scene changes are rapid with no pause in the action. That is also down to Jerry Mitchell's tight direction and choreography, which keeps things moving at a cracking pace.

The eight piece orchestra under musical director Peter White also deserve a mention.

If there was a fault it was in the sound. Too many words were lost in songs and dialogue through what seemed to be blurred sound.

American accents don't help but it seemed to be female cast who suffered most - the men were all fine with clear words, while too often when girls spoke or sang too much of it was just noise which is a pity.

There are plenty of songs in the musical, mostly high-energy, sugar coated pop from Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin which all help to raise the feel-good factor of a show that leaves you with a warm glow and a smile as you head off home. To 01-09-12

Roger Clarke

OMG, there's another one . . . .

***

DO blondes have all the fun? Well, Faye Brookes certainly enjoys herself in the role of stunning blonde Elle Woods who decides to prove she is more than a pretty face by enrolling at the Harvard Law school and succeeding.

In this award-winning musical she is ditched by her law student boyfriend Warner (Gareth Gates) because he wants someone more serious, so she decides to pursue him and perhaps win him back by showing she is really a very intelligent lady.

Brookes is excellent in a performance which reminds everyone that you simply can't judge people by appearance, and she even goes on to successfully defend a woman in a murder trial.

Legally Blonde is now on tour after three successful years in the West End, and it seems to be developing a cult following. The first night audience at the Alex gave the musical a rousing reception.

I found it pleasant, very amusing in parts, but not high on my list of top musicals. I had a little trouble grasping all the dialogue, partly through the irritating American accents the cast need to use.

Andy Mace is an exception. He plays Professor Callahan and you can hear every word he says or sings.

A fine performances, too, from Iwan Lewis (Emmett Forrest), and terrific comedy highlights from Jennifer Ellison (hairdresser Paulette) and Lewis Griffiths (Kyle).

Music and lyrics are by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin and the story is based on a novel by Amanda Brown.

Legally Blonde runs to 01.09.12

Paul Marston

 

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