Musical theatre actors and actresses who trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland are regularly found in both West End and touring musical productions, as patrons who are studious enough to peruse cast biographies in show programmes in sufficient detail are already aware. Many of their musical theatre alumni are actor-musicians, though for this Edinburgh Fringe production of Legally Blonde The Musical there’s enough happening on stage as it is without the actors playing their own instruments as well, so there’s a separate band of eight members.
There are a few changes sprinkled here and there from the West End and Broadway productions – ‘Elle’s Dad’ is now ‘Elle’s Other Mum’, and they’re playing it safe by having soft toys instead of actual dogs, though the one that belongs to Paulette Buonufonte (Eloise Runnette at the performance I attended, sharing the role with Maaike Hillen) is a sight to behold in its relative enormity and appearance. Speaking of Paulette, hers is the stand-out performance, vocally speaking, bringing the house down in ‘Ireland’, with a smooth and solid belt that gloriously filled the auditorium.
The choreography (Lainie Baird and Alexandra Spencer-Jones) impresses time and time again. In the opening number of the second half, ‘Whipped Into Shape’, Brooke Wyndham (Nea Maria-Alanko at the performance I attended, sharing the role with Keren Lydia), a fitness instructor who is the defendant in a murder trial, leads perhaps half a dozen ladies in a jail through a rigorous routine. To simultaneously skip speedily and continue to sing at full musical theatre volume and tempo was an extraordinary sight – and well before midday.
Even taking into account a mere ten-minute interval (I think it was slightly longer than that in the end, as it happens) the running time has been reduced yet further in this production thanks to some nifty cuts that are barely noticeable whilst the performance is in progress – unless, of course, you happen to be a huge fan of Legally Blonde and know the running order of scenes by heart. The production doesn’t take itself too seriously (even if this means there’s the occasional odd staging), and Vanessa Campbell’s Elle Woods is infectiously optimistic: low points do not last long and are always accompanied by a plan of action. That said, she is open to suggestions, particularly from teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (a hugely likable James Dawoud).
I once closed a review of a student production by saying, “Omigod you guys, the future of musical theatre is looking very positive indeed. What a show. what an Elle of a show.” That’s true of this production too.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Dumped by her boyfriend for not being “serious” enough, sorority president Elle Woods decides to follow him to Harvard. With determination (and an AMAZING manicure) Elle proves there’s more to her than just a hair colour. Spurred on by determination and self-belief Elle wins over her doubters and proves that blondes really do have more fun.
DIRECTOR/CO-CHOREOGRAPHER Alexandra Spencer-Jones
CHOREOGRAPHER Lainie Baird
MUSICAL DIRECTORS Andy Manning and Joe Clayton
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER Claire Halleran
LIGHTING DESIGNER Grant Anderson
SOUND DESIGNER Gerrie Victor
MUSICAL SUPERVISOR David Higham
VOICE SUPPORT Jean Sangster
DIALECT COACH Alice White
Until 24th August 2019
Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LR