Review: Legally Blonde, The Musical @ Savoy Theatre 21/5/11

By Poppy Bragg

Bright pink dresses, lots of singing, energetic dancing, bubbly sorority girls and a message to be true to yourself: “Omigod you guys, it’s Legally Blonde, The Musical!”

The show, a musical version of the 2001 Reese Witherspoon film, won three Laurence Olivier awards earlier this year and it certainly lives up to its promise of feel-good fun. Fans of the movie will be pleased to know that this is a fairly faithful adaption. Classic lines such as “I’ve got a package”, “and your boyfriend’s name is…?” and of course the unforgettable “Bend and Snap” all feature.
 
If you don’t know the Legally Blonde story, it revolves around fun loving Californian sorority girl, Elle Woods. Heartbroken after her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, ends their relationship saying he wants “a Jackie not a Marilyn”, Elle sets out to prove that she can be “serious” by following him to Harvard Law School (“Like it’s hard!”).
 
After a shaky start she becomes top of the class – surprising herself as well as her parents, Warner, and the rest of her Ivy League classmates.
 
The undoubted stars of this stage show are the dogs – Bruiser, Elle’s chihuahua and Rufus, her friend Paulette’s bulldog.
 

That isn’t to denigrate the performance of the human cast – it  is just that the dogs were  so adorable, that the moment either came on stage there was a collective “aww” from the audience and only minimal attention was paid to anyone else.

Moving on to the non-canines, Susan McFadden, winner of ITV’s 2007 Grease is the Word, turns in a charming performance as Elle, faultless in both her acting and singing.

She is particularly touching in her sadness on discovering the real reason her law teacher hired her as an intern – and then wonderfully sparkling in her comeback.

Susan McFadden as Elle Woods, Photo Ellie Kurttz

Alex Gaumond who plays Emmett, Elle’s friend and eventual love interest, sang capably rather than spectacularly, but made up for this with a movingly sweet performance and spot on comic timing.

Tamara Wall as Brooke Wyndham, the fitness queen who Elle defends on a murder charge,  deserves a mention – not only for an overall accomplished performance but also for managing the impressive feat of singing while carrying out a demanding skipping rope routine.

Elle’s three closest Delta Nu sorority sisters being with her at Harvard as a “Greek tragic chorus” figment of her imagination, differs from the film and was an inspired move.

Inspired because, being Legally Blonde, the tragic element is dispensed with and the girls are more of a pep squad cheering Elle on and adding even more colour and cheer to the show.

The only real flaw in the production was that cast members often failed to properly enunciate their words meaning many lines were lost.

A further criticism might be the lack of credibility in the plot – but for me that is not really a problem. I doubt anyone in the audience was expecting a realistic look at life in the legal profession.

That being said, as a former solicitor I have a certain delight in imagining that one day an ex-colleague may refuse to give their boss vital information using Elle’s line: “I double Delta Nu sister swore not to.”

Legally Blonde, The Musical undoubtedly delivers on its promise of fun. I defy anyone to leave the theatre without a smile on their face and Omigod you guys, on which the show opens and closes, in their head.

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