- OnStage United Kingdom Critic
This was the first Tuesday for a while where I have not been rehearsing, as last week I was in a local production, the last show was on Saturday so now I have more time on my hands. So what better way to cure my post show blues than with a trip to the theatre to see, Legally Blonde!
I have been dying to see this musical for years, since hearing the original London cast recording featuring the great Sheridan Smith. Therefore, I was really looking forward to seeing the local UK touring production, featuring Lucie Jones as Elle Woods, Bill Ward as the ruthless Professor Callahan and Rita Simons as Paulette Bonafonté.
The story follows Delta Nu President, Elle Woods, as she follows her crush, Warner, to Harvard School of Law to prove to him that she is serious and not just another dumb blonde. Elle shortly realizes that she is going to need to put the work in to become the girl of Warner's dreams. Especially seeing as Warner has a new girlfriend, a fellow classmate, Vivian. To compete with the classy and clever Vivian, Elle ups her studying, with the help of friends Emmett and Paulette. Will Elle impress Professor Callahan enough to get an internship? Will she win Warner back? Find out in this delightful musical. Or you could always watch the movie, but it won’t be as uplifting as this production, trust me.
Lucie Jones is flawless as Elle Woods, she portrays the character with sass, strength and perfect comic timing. At points she genuinely looks like Reese Witherspoon on the stage, however I would say her characterization is more dimensional that her predecessor at some points. Her voice is breathtaking, I would think she was miming with how effortlessly she let her voice tackle the complex music. However, I was that close in the stalls I could hear her sing, so I know she definitely was not miming and is just an outstanding singer. I genuinely cannot fault her portrayal. Bravo Lucie, cannot wait to see her in whatever her next production is.
Let's get onto Rita Simons as Paulette Bonafonté. Now I am not familiar with her work in Eastenders. However, her portrayal of Paulette was simply lovely, she nailed the comic character, with owning the stage every scene she was in. It was a delightful character to watch progress throughout the performance with a little help from Elle. One of the highlights of the night is Paulette doing the river dance with her love interest, UPS guy, Kyle B.O Boyle, played by Ben Harlow, who is also hilarious. Rita will definitely have a successful career in musical theatre, seeing as her voice is very strong, if there's ever a We Will Rock You revival, I want Rita as Killer Queen, that's all I am saying.
Bill Ward brought charm and depth to the character of Professor Callahan. I was very surprised with Bill's vision for this character, as he is usually the most boring character within the musical/film however there was a certain charm that came with Callahan's sleazy nature, it was a nice touch which worked well. Bill's accent was very strong, he managed to age his voice and also sing perfectly as well.
David Barett portrayed Emmett Forrest the way he should have been in the motion picture. A geeky young man with not a lot of self-confidence who was smitten for Elle. It added a lot more depth rather than the handsome stereotypical hunk in a chick flick we seen in the movie. David's characterization was really sweet and we see his desperation to help Elle, to do what's best for her rather than what's best for himself. David's voice is beautiful, the number's where he leads such as Chip on my shoulder are strong and have so much emotion weaved through them.
Laura Harrison plays Vivienne Kensington, the clever and rather villainous character is played splendidly by Harrison. She takes on this wannabe lawyer and owns it, she actually makes her seem like a normal business woman desperate to succeed. Laura's voice is one of the strongest in the production, her performance of Legally Blonde reprise was so empowering and her voice drove most of the number. Liam Doyle plays Warner Huntington III, he does really well in making him seem like a selfish asshole. He doesn't do it too over the top and makes it seem realistic which works for the production.
This musical has the best ensemble I have seen in a production. They work seamlessly together. Especially in Whipped into shape none of the skipping was out of time and all together. There isn't much more I can say, they were absolutely brilliant.
Anthony Williams directed and choreographed this full production and I think he done it fantastically. Using the script, music and previous productions as a template to start work on this production, he made everything have a purpose, adapt the production so that it fitted into this current time. Seeing as it is nearly eleven years since the original production opened. He even added more in, it was a nice touch with the LGBT flags at the end of There! Right There! Everything seemed to be placed perfectly, the characters always had a purpose for each move therefore there is nothing I would say that would need to change.
James McCullagh is musical director of this production, it sounded like we were listening to a cast recording with how faultless the band and performers were working together. I also loved the additional megamix at the finale which worked brilliantly. However, the only thing I would say is that the music was too quiet, it needed to be turned up, it did dampen the atmosphere at points. Nev Milsom's lighting design was bright, colorful, plus matched the music, dialogue, tone and emotion of every scene. Jon Harris' set was brilliant for this touring production, with nearly a different set in every scene. The only part of the scenery I didn't like was the Harvard wood cloth which seemed like it was straight from a pantomime and didn't match with the rest of the production design.
This production seemed like it wasn't on a tour and more a residency production with the standard of performance and production. This was a delightfully surprising revival which was welcomed back into the theatre due to how uplifting it is. Not only that, it is great to see a production that supplies women with strong characters who have so much depth rather than the usual damsel we see within some musicals. Despite some issues with sound and set, the latest UK tour of Legally Blonde The Musical is a brilliant production which compliments the script and music of the original musical which launched in 2007. Due to this being one of the best performances I have seen this year, I have no choice but to rate this production 5/5 stars. Much more than just a cheesy musical about a blonde girl wanting to be a lawyer.
Make sure to catch this musical in a town/city near you! Check out the trailer below: