Touring – reviewed at New Wimbledon Theatre, London
Guest reviewer: Olivia Rose Dowden
Based on the 2001 teen movie, Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, who follows her high school sweetheart all the way to Harvard Law School, finding herself along the way.
This UK touring production is led by the hugely energetic Lucie Jones as Elle Woods. Vocally, she is extremely secure and tackles Elle’s huge numbers with confidence and charisma. Her portrayal of the character is a lot goofier than I’ve seen done before, which is refreshing and quirky. However, there are moments where Jones occasionally misses the mark with her comedic timing and some of the jokes are lost.
There isn’t as significant a transformation of character as I would have hoped; it is only really at the most serious point in the show during the title song, in which Elle decides to give up on Harvard and return home, that Jones began to show another layer to Elle. Despite this, she remains charming throughout and truly wins over the audience, gaining a standing ovation at the end of the performance.
David Barrett is a very strong Emmett Forest, creating an endearing and likeable character. Unfortunately, as his key number ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ is played so slowly by the band, the song struggles to build as much as it should. This is not something he should be personally scrutinised for, but it admittedly affects his performance. I feel the same is the case for Rita Simons’ number ‘Ireland’. Simons masters the voice of the brassy Paulette but could offer more in terms of character.
Act One, in particular, was paced very slowly. The songs of Legally Blonde are admittedly very “wordy”, but the slow speed at which they were played meant there was a distinct lack of energy that only really emerged in the final number of Act One with So Much Better. Act Two was much more secure, with the comedic numbers Whipped Into Shape and There! Right There! being definite crowd-pleasers. The cast also coped extremely well with one of the dogs who was rather reluctant to stay in character, ad-libbing in order to keep the piece moving.
The production is nearing the end of its tour and I hate to say it but unfortunately it shows. Some half-hearted American accents and very mechanical blocking meant the production just didn’t have that spark that makes this show so special. I also felt the addition of a Legally Blonde megamix after the bows undermined the genuine message the piece portrays at the end.
Nevertheless, after watching a show with so much wit and charm, portrayed by committed and skilled performers, it’s difficult to leave without a slight smile on your face. I want to emphasise that the cast themselves were very strong, with impressive dance numbers and secure vocals. Those seeing the show for the first time will most likely have an enjoyable evening due to the warm-hearted nature of the piece. However, the many patchy moments made me feel as if the piece had lost some of its soul somewhere along the tour.
Legally Blonde runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 23rd June