Legally Blonde
 

 

legally blonde alex

Legally Blonde

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

****

The American High School is a tried and tested setting for musical theatre. The shows that have worked well do so because there is more to them than a parade of pink pom poms and sickly-sweet anthems.

Grease set an impressive benchmark for successors like Glee, Hairspray and High School Musical to live up to. Legally Blonde, the 2001 film that kick-started Reece Weatherspoon’s career, made its stage debut in 2007.

Loosely based on the novel by Amanda Brown which follows the blonde author’s experiences at Law School , the show has the requisite number of high octane tunes but also has a charm that lifts it to a higher level. There is real substance here and, at times, it’s actually very funny.

The story is simple..and that’s fine as no –one ‘s here to see Harold Pinter. The girl, Elle Woods, a chirpy, pink-loving California girl falls for a boy. The boy goes away to study law so the girl follows suit (as well as donning one) just to be near him. Things, of course, don’t always go to plan and Elle’s quest to become a hot shot attorney is not without incident.

Cue an assortment of random but beautifully drawn characters – among them the Ireland loving hairdresser , the tough talking Barrister , the slightly geeky but well-meaning new friend, the token lesbian (obviously) and, perhaps most impressively, the UPS delivery man with an almighty package. I’ll leave that one there.

The songs are tight and consistently well delivered throughout the cast and backed by a thumping orchestration under MD James McCullagh. Some, like Ohmigod You Guys!, Whipped into Shape  and Bend and Snap are the sort of high energy numbers you would expect from this genre whilst others like Blood in the Water take on a slightly darker tone.

While these numbers work well, it’s the comedy songs that threaten to steal the show and none more so than the sublimely worked Gay or European?.

In an age where so much care is needed in what we say and how we say it, this is refreshingly and un-apologetically non-pc and yet hard to see how anyone could be offended. It’s just very funny.

Anthony Williams choreography is slick and always vibrant, never threatening to overpower the story , more highlighting and complimenting the action. There is never a sense of lets put in a dance routine for the sake of it.

Credit too for a strong lighting design by Nev Milsom. Colour is key to this show, and the lighting plots highlight the vibrant shades of costume and set beautifully.

Lucie Jones shines as Elle Woods, the L.A girl on a mission. It’s a big role that requires a lot more than a good voice (which she certainly has). Jones’s comic timing, both physically and verbally, is a delight throughout. Her scenes with Emmett (a hugely endearing performance from David Barrett) are amongst the strongest.

Rita Simmons brings some feisty grit as Paulette, the world weary hairdresser with a taste for all things Irish . . . and big packages.

The whole company works with real pace, not only in ensemble scenes but a variety of strong and featured cameos throughout. The triple threat delivery of singing, acting and dancing is perfectly demonstrated from start to finish.

Amidst the flag waving cuteness of it all, though, there is a message that has never been more topical. The boss, Professor Callahan, played with strutting arrogance by Bill Ward, reflects the darker side of corporate power and its seedy expectations of women wanting to advance to the top of the ladder.

And let’s not forget the pooches. Bruisey, Elle’s diminutive, faithful four legged friend provides even more adorabilty, while Bruiser, the bull dog, brought to mind a canine Phil Mitchell. Both suitably cast and even mostly faced the right way – as much as could be expected to be fair.

My only tiny gripe . . . I’m not convinced the mega mix was needed after the curtain call. It turned things a little pantomimish. That said, the audience seemed happy to clap along.

Legally Blonde certainly doesn’t disappoint. A feel-good, roller coaster of a show packed full of beautiful people, cute dogs and more pink than you can shake a stick at. O.M.G ! Do yourself a favour and catch it while you can. To 26-05-18

Tom Roberts

21-05-18 

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