Touring – reviewed at Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Guest reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar
Oh my god, you guys. So, this blonde sorority girl from Malibu like totally defies the odds and gets into Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend who dumped her because she wasn’t serious enough, and it’s, like, totally awesome! It’s a unique start to a law career but, then again, Elle Woods is the epitome of unique.
Legally Blonde The Musical – now starring Lucie Jones as Elle – is the stage adaption of the classic 2001 film, which starred Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson and Jennifer Coolidge. At its core, it is a tale of aspiration with the message that anything is possible if you only believe in yourself.
It’s a shame that Woods’ rousing valedictorian speech – which neatly summarises this concept in the movie – is omitted from the stage version, but its absence serves as a reminder that the musical is wildly different from the film. And treating this show as an entity of its own offers up a slightly different story. The importance of love as a motivator becomes its own thread, the role that physical appearances play in society is amplified – and it’s all served up with a huge dollop of joy.
That much is evident from the outset. The gaudy set design (Jon Harris, Jason Bishop and David Shields), beautifully condensed for this touring production, is over-the-top and dazzling, elevating the story further into a fantastical space. The costuming from Elizabeth Dennis is outstanding, channelling 90s American styles. Each number is a fashion show in itself, making the whole gig feel like an extension of London Fashion Week that ended only a few days ago.
What’s more, the cast are clearly having a wonderful time. Lucie Jones is exquisite as Elle, seamlessly blending nods to Witherspoon’s portrayal with her own flavour. This Elle comes with a level of self-awareness and sass that makes her truly memorable. And with a voice that is made for the stage, complete with mesmerising blonde hair, Jones truly embodies the character.
Rita Simons as the flamboyant Paulette Bonafonté is another remarkable performance; the hopeless romantic hairdresser with a knockout voice and witty zingers that elicit rapturous laughter.
The musical numbers make for occasional treats; there is a particularly exceptional number starring Brooke Wyndham (Helen Petrova) performing skipping rope-based choreography, followed soon after by a deliciously comic routine in a courtroom. Under James McCullagh’s direction, the orchestra is fantastic and you can’t help but feel as though they are having just as much fun as their colleagues on stage.
There’s no denying that Legally Blonde The Musical is a raucous, silly and above all fun production. And OMG! – anyone who goes to see it over the coming months is in for a brilliantly entertaining evening.
Runs until 23 September, then tours (details here)
Reviewed by Bhakti Gajjar
Photo credit: Robert Workman