Touring – reviewed at the Milton Keynes Theatre
British theatre audiences have fallen in love with Legally Blonde since it made its West End debut eight years ago. And what’s not to love? It’s pink, perky, and as cute as a button – and it stars two gorgeous dogs. Okay, so canine co-stars Bruiser and Rufus, may not have their names above the banner but they steal the show every night. OMG, it’s impossible not to be swept away with this wonderfully slick, joyfully funny musical.
From its excessive pink cheeriness to its terribly serious message (hidden under lots of cheese) about superficiality, elitism and ambition, it is one of the most entertaining shows on the circuit. Lucie Jones – so impressive in the recent revival of Rent (and Eurovision 2017 – but we won’t dwell on that) – plays Elle, a young girl so madly in love that she is willing to turn her oh so vacuous life upside down to follow her boyfriend to Harvard Law School.
But after fluking her way into the Ivy League college, accompanied by her scene-stealing chihuahua, Bruiser, she discovers that her WASP boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, might not be worth the effort. Swapping fashion magazines and shopping for law books and sombre suits, this bubbly Californian babe sets out to prove that she is more than just an empty-headed blonde.
Jones is a terrific comic actor, a superb singer and wonderful actress but, in the show, she looks like a middle-aged fish out of water next to the young ensemble of sonority sisters, singers and dancers. The problem is her wardrobe – something Elle would have latched onto in rehearsals. While her friends are dressed in fashionable designer minis and crop tops, flaunting young, toned, bodies, Lucie appears to be dressed in her mother’s clothes. Everything is below the knee and, dare I say it, rather frumpy. Elle wouldn’t have been seen dead in any of her outfits especially as they make her look at least a decade older than the rest of her peer group.
But fashion disasters aside, this touring version of Legally Blonde is tremendous. Rita Simons, as Elle’s confidente and hairdresser, Paulette, is a hoot as she tries to regain custody of her dog, Rufus, from an ex, and looks for love from a dreamboat delivery guy.
Local lad, David Barrett, is genuine and honest as the stand-up Emmett, who helps Elle find herself and her place in life, while a well dressed Bill Ward is suitably sleazy as a ruthless law tutor offering female interns a leg up the career ladder in return for sex.
The set pieces are impressive – particularly the skipping routine in Whipped Into Shape, and the Riverdance parody, Ireland, although I wonder how gay theatre-goers view There! Right There! which borders on the offensive in this day and age.
The production is a real team effort with everyone turning in star performances, whether they are principals or part of the ensemble.
Still winning fans.