I will admit that I was a little skeptical about seeing Legally Blonde – The Musical as the film is not on my list of favourites. In fact I remember being heavily persuaded to watch the film one evening as part of a girls’ night in whilst working at Disneyland in Paris. Despite this however, I had heard some very good reviews about the musical and wanted to give it a try. I also have a friend in the chorus and obviously wanted to see her.
As soon as you walk into the theatre, the atmosphere is full of anticipation for a fun, girly evening and the opening of the show does not disappoint. Set for the first part in fictional stateside sorority house Alpha Nu, we see a group of girls excited about the upcoming announcement of their head girl, Elle Woods. The news is that Elle’s boyfriend is taking her out that evening with the intention of proposing to her; at least this is what she is expecting. In frantic preparation Margot, Serena and Pilar establish themselves as her 3 main allies, with the other sorority girls following in earnest. The girls sing in close harmony, full of energy and with enough excitement to fill the whole theatre. In reality, Elle’s boyfriend is actually taking her out for a beautiful, romantic dinner…..to break up with her. In his quest to become a lawyer and train at the prestigious Harvard Law School, he feels that he must have a sensible girlfriend and Elle no longer fits into this picture. A devastated Elle is determined to prove to him that she can be sensible and swats up until she herself is accepted into Harvard Law School (with an interesting application technique). As the two regularly meet on campus, is becomes clear that Elle’s mind deteriorates each time she sees him, whilst he on the other hand has found his new sensible girlfriend, who soon becomes his fiancé. After an embarrassing display at a party, Elle is befriended by senior student and legal intern Emmett. With a sympathetic ear, and a story of personal triumph, Emmett persuades Elle to apply herself, study hard and try to forget about her ex. This leads to all sorts of personal achievements for her.
Susan McFadden stars as the blonde haired, pink-loving, socialite and sorority girl Elle Woods, and her first appearance highly built up by the excitement of her girlfriends. On the very first impression, her voice is sweet, her smile is sparkling and her eyes bright. Having watched this McFadden in the reality TV casting show Grease is the Word I knew she had a pretty voice and that she was a capable actress, but I was impressed at how much stronger her performance was in Legally Blonde. She performed with confidence and carried the show very well. Part of me does wish I had seen Olivier Award winner Sheridan Smith in the title role, only because McFadden portrayed the character as sweet, cute and silly and I feel Smith, with her background in comedy, would have got all the comic timing perfect and brought the ditzy side of Elle to the surface more. The audience did believe in McFadden however, and in the character’s quiet determination. Potential blonde-bimbo Elle becomes even more likable when the audience sees the relationship with her confidant and mentor Emmett grow and blossom. The pair are a lovely match, so much so that the ripples of ‘awww’ throughout the audience increased as the show progressed and you could feel everyone rooting for this couple to realise their feelings for each other.
Alex Gaumond, who plays the part of trainee lawyer Emmett doesn’t have the strongest of all voices and did struggle at the top of his range. I could not fault him for his charm and integrity though and really did warm to his character each time he sent a longing look in Elle’s direction. His complete opposite was the character of Warner Huntington III, Elle’s first love, ex-boyfriend and the focus of her affections for the majority of the first act. Simon Thomas is very good in this part, and Warner is very well portrayed as a suave, vain, Ivy-League style student. His first entrance is like something from the 90s teenage board game Dream Phone and he continues to entertain us throughout with his tendency to flirt with Elle not knowing that his new ‘sensible’ girlfriend is very close by. As all good villains in a show, he gets his comeuppance at the end, and Elle still finds her knight in shining armour.
A mention must be made to the two most comical characters in the show, Paulette (Denise Van Outen) and the subject of her affections, the UPS delivery guy (Chris Ellis-Stanton). Each time Ellis-Stanton entered the stage, his playing of the delivery guy was so deliberate and full of intent that the audience couldn’t help but laugh. Paulette is a lovable character with excellent comic timing, wonderful facial expressions and an accent that didn’t falter. Van Outen gives the character the tough exterior of the tired hairdresser but with the heart of gold to match (and an adorable dog).
We had a couple of understudies for this performance and the one that must be acknowledged is Suzie McAdam as Vivienne, the stuck-up new girlfriend of Warner. She gave a performance full of spite with the necessary high status, complete with a sharp tongue, but what I really want to comment on is her vocal ability. She only sings properly towards the end of the second act, but this girl is one to watch out for as she has an incredible singing voice!
So after all my skepticism, I would really recommend Legally Blonde for a good laugh with the girls. As far-fetched as the plot becomes and when the acting teeters on melodrama, the audience is still laughing. The chorus are full of energy and the dancing is great. Every ensemble member has a named part with lines and you can really tell all the hard work that goes into each show. Legally Blonde is about love, vanity, self-worth and integrity (yes really) and everyone comes out of the theatre with a smile on their face.
Legally Blonde – Savoy Theatre
Elle Woods – Susan McFadden
Paulette – Denise Van Outen
Emmett – Alex Gaumond
Warner Huntington III – Simon Thomas
15th March 2011
15th March 2011