Legally Blonde The Musical is at The Theatre Royal Nottingham until 3rd December 2011. You can purchase tickets here.
Within thirty seconds of the show opening, the up-tempo “Omigod You Guys” is sure to have a smile on your face. Fantastically adapted from the 2001 film, Legally Blonde The Musical follows the journey of Delta Nu’s UCLA Chapter President, fashion-merchandising student, and natural blonde Elle Woods, as she follows her recently ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in an attempt to prove that she can be “serious”. Although apparently ditsy and naïve, the character of Elle remains for me one of cinema’s most universally identifiable characters, and this couldn’t have translated better onto the stage, thanks partially to the wonderful acting of Faye Brookes.
When I noticed Claire Sweeney would be playing the relatively significant role of Paulette, I have to admit I was wary of it being a kind of stunt to get more people interested by using a recognisable name, and to an extent, I was right. To her credit, I can’t fault her interpretation of the character, or her singing voice, but her accent was patchy, to say the least. The same could be said for Dave Willets, who took on the role of the cold, hard lawyer Professor Callahan.
Although apparently critically acclaimed for “numerous leading roles in some of the most renowned musicals of our time” and having a career in musical theatre spanning nearly three decades, he took the pompous authority of the character too far, drawing out every line, to the extent that he at times sounded slightly senile, and he might as well not have been accompanied for certain parts of his song “Blood in the Water”, because his phrasing was so bad. It’s almost as if no one dared criticise him, because of his wealth of experience. His style of acting may be perfect for Les Mis or Phantom, but, in my opinion, he’s just wrong for this show. And, as far as his accent goes, I’ve never before heard anyone pronounce the words “flaw” and “floor” the same.
Despite these flaws, the cast were generally good; Neil Toon (known for his short stint as Kyle Ryder in Hollyoaks) exudes the perfect level of spineless arrogance for his character of Warner, Iwan Lewis’s Emmett started off a bit flat (perhaps a directorial decision) but by the end gains the strength of character needed for this role, and Charlotte Harwood and Hannah Grover are perfect as Vivienne and Brooke. Plus, how could I go without mentioning Bruiser? Although not an animal lover myself, an acting dog always seems to be a hit.
As for adaption from the film, it’s generally great. They haven’t felt the need to change any elements of the story, and, although there is the fear with musicals adapted from pre-existing material that the songs will be awfully shoehorned in for the sake of it, this couldn’t be farther from reality, with some lyrics lifted directly from the film’s dialogue.
In this particular production there were some alterations, which I hadn’t seen when I saw the show previously, which I didn’t particularly like. For example, the attempts to update the show, with the original year of Elle’s graduation (2001) being replaced with 2010, and the addition of references such as Glee and Simon Cowell; this would have been fine if it had made sense, but they made no attempts to update the costumes, plus the whole charm of the film (and original productions of the musical) is wrapped up in the late 1990s, early 2000s teen pop attitude.
There were also some small directorial decisions that I wasn’t too sure about, like the character of Enid Hoops being interpreted less peace warrior power dyke, and more sniggering eco-geek, but I think that’s just me being too precious about the original.
Aside from a few bad accents and personal objections, it is a fantastic show, with some brilliant actors considering it’s a touring production. Yes it’s bright and pink and fluffy, but above all else, it’s fun; managing to put across an important and realistic message about judgement based on appearances, whilst never taking itself too seriously.
David Hunter – Platform