The West End is a place of perpetual progression, with shows moving in and out of town in an ever-changing cycle of creative vision. While the closure of one show to make room for another can be devastating to its die-hard fan base, most will agree that it is a necessary evil to keep the theatre scene from becoming tired and stale. Nonetheless, this fact offers little comfort to the fans who are mourning the loss of a favoured production.
Everyone has a favourite show in town, the one they can return to time and again without ever losing their enthusiasm for. I can remember seeing the same faces on my visits to Love Never Dies and finding out from them that they’d been going to see it on a weekly – sometimes twice-weekly – basis since it opened. I can also remember the bleak musings they, and others like them, would post to Twitter after its closure, despairing over the hole its departure had left in their lives. Every show has its staunch followers who live and breathe it, and for them in particular, that show’s departure can be a hard-hitting blow. The ray of light they can always look for afterwards though is the hope of an ensuing tour production. There is currently a succession of former West End shows touring around the UK, such as Sister Act, Oliver! and Dirty Dancing, with the recently closed Chicago and soon to be closed Shrek The Musical to follow suit; a UK tour of Love Never Dies is also being talked about for next year. Touring productions not only provide theatre-lovers outside of the immediate West End area the opportunity to see the shows they might otherwise miss, but also keep these shows alive for their dedicated fans. Of course, getting from London to say, Manchester or Glasgow to see a particular show again inevitably means extensive travelling – unless you have been blessed with deep pockets and an understanding boss, it’s going to be a tricky business to see as much of your show as you may have liked. When it works its way back to a venue that’s not too far from home though, that’s a different story.
In what will be welcome news for many of its fans, the touring production of Legally Blonde, which closed at the Savoy Theatre in April 2012 after three years in the West End, is coming back to the London area this September. It will run for two weeks at the New Wimbledon Theatre, from Tuesday 25th September to Saturday 6th October 2012.
Legally Blonde is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film, which starred Reese Witherspoon in the central role of ‘Elle Woods’, popular sorority girl who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in a bid to win him back, but learns that there is more to life, and to her. Written by Heather Hach and with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, the stage adaption of Legally Blonde first premiered on Broadway in 2007, directed by the renowned Jerry Mitchell. It transferred to the West End in 2010, starring Blue band member Duncan James as ex-boyfriend ‘Warner Huntington III’ and Sheridan Smith as ‘Elle’; the role which really cemented her name in the theatre world and earned her a Laurence Olivier award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’. Legally Blonde is an international award-winning show which has won seven major UK theatre awards, including ‘Best New Musical’ at the 2011 Laurence Oliver Awards.
The UK tour of the musical is starting its two-week run at the Manchester Opera House tonight, and then it’s homeward bound to London. Faye Brookes (Grease) leads the show as ‘Elle’, supported by Iwan Lewis (Passion, Godspell) as ‘Emmett Forest’, Andy Mace (Wicked, Betty Blue Eyes) as ‘Professor Callaghan’ and Tracey Penn (Love Never Dies) as ‘Vivienne’, along with star names Gareth Gates and Jennifer Ellison.
Gates first shot to fame as runner-up on Pop Idol in 2002 and went on to become a successful recording artist, before branching out into theatre – he has played the title role in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and ‘Marius’ in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, and is now tackling the role of ‘Warner’ in the Legally Blonde tour.
Ellison is a former soap actress (Brookside) who has made numerous other television appearances since then, as well as making her big screen debut playing ‘Meg Giry’ in the 2004 film adaption of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. She later moved onto stage roles and has played ‘Roxie Hart’ in Chicago and ‘Cora’ in Calendar Girls – she now plays the role of ‘Paulette’ in the Legally Blonde tour.
The Christmas season is fast approaching, and to combat the forthcoming stress that is inevitably attached to it, a dose of Legally Blonde could be just what the doctor ordered; fun, frolicking entertainment rolled up into the perfect antidote. Thanks largely to the film, it has entered into common world society. The ‘bend and snap’ is now globally recognised and with the musical soon to be back in town, it offers theatre-goers the chance to try the move for themselves by bending for their wallets and snapping up some tickets. It’s only in town for two weeks and that time is sure to just fly by, so take in that Legally Blonde experience while you can – a show this good should surely be illegal…
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 11th September 2012