Following the well-known story, especially amongst the younger generation, of Elle Woods and her journey after love, Legally Blonde is a hit. Transforming into a feel-good story of self-discovery and self-love it is an uplifting inspiring musical with some surprisingly catchy songs. Having been a fan of the film, I was apprehensive about whether the musical would manage to fill the large shoes of Reece Witherspoon and her fellow cast members.
From the opening song, Omigod You Guys, I was hooked. With a strong female ensemble storming the stage the enthusiasm and talent emanating from these gorgeous blonde women gave away the quality that this production was about to offer. Described most accurately as the New York Times as a ‘non-stop sugar rush of a show’ the show continued to impress in an annoyingly pert and peppy way! Premiering in the US in 2007 there are a number of songs throughout that are so American it is astonishingly hilarious. A number of the songs, There! Right There and The Harvard Variations, immediately come to mind. A very typical tongue-in-cheek humour occasionally edging into almost racist, definitely stereotypical, but just managing to steer it into the tolerable and acceptable! Thankfully we can’t hold its Americanness against it too long, although I did appreciate the slightly condescending British-American dictionary provided in the programme.
The music and lyrics written by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin are incredibly witty with a great understanding of the necessity of working with choreography and seamlessly weaving songs into the book by Heather Hach. Stunningly polished the production really made sense as a musical and is an ode to the motion picture before it. A personal favourite was Whipped into Shape where the choreography and direction of Anthony Williams and Dean Street perfectly combined in a spectacle I won’t forget anytime soon.
Lucie Jones charms as Elle Woods, and although having recently represented the UK in Eurovision, it is clear her place is on the stage. She prevented Elle from becoming too sickly sweet and made her character development believable. Her personal cheerleaders from Delta Nu continuously bring comedy throughout the show as a Greek chorus only Elle can sing and helps to push home the importance of friends who believe in you. Rita Simmons steals the show during her performances as Paulette.
Her vocals are stupefying whilst her songs, such as the ludicrous Ireland, leave the audience wishing she was involved to a greater extent throughout the plot. Bill Ward was suitably odious as the slimy charming Professor Callahan. A horrible character, Ward’s voice perfectly embodied his disgusting confidence, everything sung with a creepy smirk. I loved the fact the musical ensured it kept this discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace central to the plot as it is such a good example for young girls in the audience to show how women should address and deal with these all too common occurrences (ie not let it trample us into the ground). David Barrett as Emmett was an adorable underdog who had the audience ‘awing’ from the get-go and rooting for the good-looking guy supporting Elle even when she takes him for granted.
I confess I am still sitting listening to the soundtrack as it plays continuously in my head anyway. One of the most enjoyable musicals I’ve ever seen I never lost interest and was hanging onto every word, sung or spoken. A fantastic Christmas treat it’s definitely one for all to catch – especially students!