Legally Blonde has returned to the UK. I remember this show as one of the first musicals that I saw all the way through, years ago when I was really getting into them by searching for anything that I could on YouTube, thanks to the MTV screening of the original cast. I really love that cast but I was very excited to see what this new UK tour would bring. It was also quite exhilarating to see it performed whilst the tour stopped in the hometown of the leading principle Lucie Jones who has taken on the role of Elle Woods. As I was very familiar with the story and the music from the MTV screening in this review I will be mainly talking about this particular production and it’s cast.
Originally based on the hit Reese Witherspoon film, Legally Blonde follows Elle Woods on her quest to regain her ‘true love’ Warner Huntington III. This quest brings her to Harvard Law school and we are treated to an inside view as Elle’s attempts to impress Warner actually evolves into a journey of self-discovery and a new career.
Before getting into the cast, I’m going to start with my favourite part of Legally Blonde. The instrumental versions of the songs that appear throughout the show and as the overture, but mainly in the finale, are amazing and beautiful. This production really captured that and it was a treat to hear. Although it made me very sorry for the orchestra when people continue to talk over them I urge you to go and listen to these orchestrations if you get the chance.
Elle Woods is a surprisingly complex character. Of course, as a sorority president obsessed with all things bright and pink, she is perky. But the story shows that there is far more to her than that. Lucie Jones’ portrayal of Elle was certainly intriguing. She incorporated Elle’s initial smarts and talents almost effortlessly into her original perky attitude from the top of the show rather than switching from one to the other. Lucie Jones also has an amazing ability to switch from the perky aspects of Elle’s personality into the more emotional moments and back again without it looking forced. And I have to say, her belt at the end of ‘So Much Better’ is amazing. She really is an amazing talent to watch.
Rita Simmons, similar to her on-screen sister Samantha Womack, left their famous roles in Eastenders to tour the UK in musical productions. Her commitment to the role of Paulette was amazing. She was hilarious throughout and her singing talent really sounded out her characterisation.
This production really epitomises the show’s message of ‘girl power’ as it really was the women in the cast who stole the show. Vivian is a character famous for coming out with some amazing notes during the ‘Legally Blonde Remix’ and the finale and Laura Harrison truly lived up to that. However, not only is she an amazing singer but I also really liked her portrayal of Vivian from the beginning. I feel that she made Vivian far more human so her character development was far more believable. I was also quite surprised at just how much I liked Helen Petrovna as Brooke Wyndham. She stole the show slightly at the beginning of Act Two with ‘Whipped Into Shape’ and I was tired just watching that routine and the fact that she could sing so effortlessly afterwards was amazing.
While the women stole the show, I must admit that I was not a fan of Bill Ward’s interpretation of Professor Callahan. As soon as he came on to sing ‘Blood In the Water’ he was loud, almost shouty, brash and flamboyant in his movement. As he stayed exactly the same throughout the whole show it seemed to turn him into a slightly more comic villain and didn’t make his actions towards Elle surprising or shocking towards the end of the show. I think I much preferred Michael Rupert’s interpretation of Callahan as a smooth, calm lawyer.
I did notice some strange choices in terms of, possibly, musical direction during this production. Well, I’m not sure what it was but it was quite strange. Throughout some songs in the show, there were added pauses in the middle of musical lines and strange exaggerations on certain sing words. It’s hard to describe but it was most visible in ‘Chip on My Shoulder’ (one of my favourite musical theatre songs). This issue made me really dislike this version of the song. The pauses and exaggerations change the song from quick almost sarcastic speak-singing, which is what I love Emmett’s character for, into a jerky and almost annoying song. It’s a real shame as well because at the end of the song, and during ‘Take It Like A Man’, David Barrett showed that he does have a lovely voice and can really sing. I just wish that the arrangement of this great song had been kept the same to work in his favour. I feel that this may have also affected the girls of Delta Nu during the opening as their lines felt too exaggerated to be natural and the pauses and exaggerations made them sound like they were reading the lines as one-offs rather than as parts of conversations. Basically, some of the choices made in this production stopped some aspects feeling completely natural and smooth. However, this was easily combatted by the talent I have mentioned above and the very sweet development of Elle and Emmett’s love story which was handled very well both by Jones and Barrett.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing Legally Blonde be brought to life by a brand new cast. It was thrilling and the girls really did steal the show. If you’re a fan of the original Broadway production I would recommend that you give this version a try – but, if you’ve only seen the film of Legally Blonde and are looking for an introduction into the show then I could not recommend this more.
Legally Blonde is running in Cardiff’ New Theatre until Saturday the 25th of November before continuing on its UK Tour. You can buy your tickets here: http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/event?id=13450
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