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Legally Blonde The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Legally Blonde Lucie Jones and David Barrett - Photo Robert Workman
Legally Blonde: Lucie Jones and David Barrett – Photo Robert Workman

Back in 2001 American author, Amanda Brown wrote about her time at in Stanford Law School. Normally, a law school would not be the most exciting of settings for a novel, but in this case, the story was made into a movie and then, the ultimate of honours, turned into a Broadway and West End Musical. After Tony nominations and Olivier Awards, the show left London and went for a trip around the country as a touring production. Last night, the tour finally settled in SW19 as Legally Blonde The Musical landed at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

Elle Woods (Lucie Jones) is the all-American college girl at UCLA. She is president of her sorority – Delta Nu – scores highly on her course (Fashion Merchandising), knows everything there is to know about fashion and make-up and, if all goes well, is about to get engaged to her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Liam Doyle). Unfortunately, Warner has other plans and tells Elle they must break-up as he is off to Harvard Law School and needs to settle down with someone serious so that he can follow his life plan. Devastated, Elle decides to follow the love of her life to Harvard and by hard work, diligence and no partying gets accepted and enters the rarefied world of one of the most prestigious educational establishments in the USA. A place where people wear black, even if nobody has died and the idea of a good time is a cocktail party with one of the academics such as the ruthless Professor Callahan (Bill Ward). In true fish out of water style, Elle has trouble fitting in with Harvard or its people. Luckily, she manages to make some friends such as Teaching Assistant Emmett Forrest (David Barrett) and hairdresser Paulette Bonafonte (Rita Simons), but it is going to take an awful lot to get Elle both her man and her career, especially if Warner’s prep-school friend Vivienne Kensington (Laura Harrison) has her way. Maybe the trial of socialite Brooke Wyndham (Helen Petrovna) can help Elle become what she can be.

Legally Blonde Ben Harlow (Kyle B O’Boyle) Rita Simons (Paulette Bonafonte). Photo Robert Workman
Legally Blonde Ben Harlow (Kyle B O’Boyle) Rita Simons (Paulette Bonafonte). Photo Robert Workman

Okay, cards on the table. I have seen the movie but if it’s on, its usually in the background rather than me sitting avidly watching it. I was surprised when the original musical came out and made no effort to go and see it, thinking the story of Elle and her “First World Problems” was a pretty frothy bit of fun and wouldn’t translate well onto the stage. However, being a dedicated reviewer, I went along to see the show, ready to give it a go. Unfortunately, my negative thoughts weren’t helped by the opening song “Omigod You Guys” which is both insanely irritating and impossible to get out of your head once you’ve heard it. However, the song actually fits in perfectly with the setting and characters in the opening and I quickly changed my whole opinion of the show/ Legally Blonde The Musical is an extremely well put together show that is both entertaining and really enjoyable.

Book writer, Heather Hach has managed to keep virtually the entire story from the movie in the show and with over twenty songs (music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin) in the two hours forty-five running time, there is plenty of music, singing and dancing to keep you entertained. Unusually, for a touring production, Legally Blonde The Musical has a large cast (24 humans and 2 dogs) and, when mixed with John Harris, Jason Bishop and David Shields extensive sets, the whole production has a real West End feel to it which is great to experience.

Lucie Jones has some pretty big shoes to fill in the role of Elle – Sheridan Smith won an Olivier for her performance. However, Lucie is more than up to the job and makes you root for Elle, who potentially could be the most irritating character in any show, and make her a person that you really want to win. Lucie has a lovely stage presence and is one of those triple threat actors that really make a show. The same can be said of Rita Simons whose role as Elle’s hairdressing confidente Paulette Bonafonte is bigger on stage than in the original movie. Rita is sassy and brings a lovely touch of vulnerability to the seemingly in control Paulette. Bill Ward brings his normal smarmy nastiness to Professor Callahan and, even if you haven’t seen the film, you instinctively know there is something not altogether nice about Elle’s teacher. Backing up all these are an amazing cast who deliver the hugely demanding Anthony Williams and Dean Street’s energetic choreography – including an exercise video workout – in really impressive style. One final mention on the cast goes to the dogs. Elle’s little chihuahua, Bruiser (Bruisey Williams-Dodd) is so cute. I think everyone in the audience, including me, wanted to run on stage and give her a quick stroke. The other dog was Rufus (Stanley) who made the most of his limited stage time by virtually stealing the show from the humans around him.

So, what did I learn from Legally Blonde The Musical? Well, the most important lesson is not to judge a book by its cover. I was as guilty of that with the whole show as were the Harvard students on stage seeing Elle for the first time. This production is fun, exciting, enjoyable and just a fantastic night out. It’s difficult to pick out individual highlights from such a great show but both my companion, Lynne and I agreed our favourite was the wonderful “There! Right There! (Gay or European?)” which is a hilarious song with fantastic choreography and a wonderful delivery by Felipe Bejarano and Connor Collins.

Finally – as I sit here listening to the original cast recording – my advice to everyone is to get yourself off to see Legally Blonde The Musical and for nearly three hours, forget Trump, Brexit and the World Cup and lose yourself in a first-rate musical that sends you back out into the world with a smile on your face and still humming “Omigod You Guys

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

OMG you guys!!! Legally Blonde The Musical is coming to a venue near you!
Starring Rita Simons as Paulette Bonafonte, Lucie Jones as Elle Woods and Bill Ward as Professor Callahan.
The smash hit Broadway and West End Musical based on the best loved movie follows beautiful and popular sorority sister Elle Woods who loves to be pampered and is passionate about pink. When she is dumped by her boyfriend Warner Huntington III for a more serious girlfriend she puts down the credit cards and picks up the books. Packing up her trusty pooch, Bruiser, she bags herself a place at the prestigious Harvard Law School to try and win him back. With the support of her new friends she learns that you can be both smart and fashionable.
Rita Simons is best known for playing Roxy Mitchell in BBC’s Eastenders for which she has won numerous awards and is one of Britain’s best loved actresses.
Lucie Jones, who represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Never Give Up On You’ and recently starred as Maureen in the 20th Anniversary tour of Rent, has played Elle Woods before in the Leicester Curve production and was a finalist in the 2009 series of The X Factor.
Bill Ward is best known for his work on two of the country’s leading soap, Emmerdale and Coronation Street but Bill is no stranger to the stage and has performed in Spamalot and The Tempest.

This all singing, all dancing romantic comedy is a fun-filled, feel-good pink fest, so bend and snap up your tickets today!

CAST
Elle Woods – Lucie Jones
Paulette Bonafonté – Rita Simons
Professor Callahan – Bill Ward
Emmett Forrest – David Barrett
Warner Huntington III – Liam Doyle
Vivienne Kensington – Laura Harrison
Lowell/Kyle B O’Boyle – Ben Harlow
Whitney/Brooke Wyndham – Helen Petrovna
Winthrop/Dewey/Elle’s Dad – Mark Peachey
Margot – Rebecca Grundy
Pilar – Delycia Belgrave
Enid Hoops – Nancy Hill
Kate/Chutney – Rosie Needham
Aaron Schultz/Stenographer – Michael Hamway
Sundeep Padamadan/Nikos – Felipe Bejarano
Elle’s Mum/Pforzheimer/Store Manager/Judge – Lucyelle Cliffe
Gaelen/Laker Girl/Da Joyce Riley – Sally Frith
Leilani/Assistant DA – Alexandra Wright
Grand Master Chad/Skater – Brett Shiels
Kiki/Carlos – Connor Collins
Female Swing – Laura Mullowney
Male Swing – Craig Tyler
Bruiser – Bruisey Williams-Dodd
Rufus – Stanley
All other roles played by the company

CREATIVE TEAM (selected)
Director and Choreographer Anthony Williams
Co-choreographer – Dean Street
Production Director Andy Batty
Musical Supervisor – James McCullagh

Palace Theatre, Manchester
25th – 30th June 2018

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