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Legally Blonde The Musical at Trinity Laban | Review

Legally Blonde The Musical at Trinity Laban
Legally Blonde The Musical at Trinity Laban

This is the solitary note I made in a notebook whilst I watched this student production of Legally Blonde The Musical: “Harvard Law has bells?” This was in response to a bell ringing to mark the end of a timetabled lecture given by Professor Callahan (Barney Fritz), and for some reason, I found it momentarily hilarious that such an esteemed higher education institution would conduct its daily business as though it were a secondary school. (The real Harvard Law School presumably doesn’t.)

This, of course, is the story of Elle Woods (at this performance, Eleanor Turner, sharing the leading role with Poppy Louise Cooper for this short run), a most unlikely candidate for Harvard Law in the first place, living a life of relative leisure in Malibu with a family that loves her and a lifestyle that quite a few people out there wouldn’t say ‘no’ to.

The perennial problem – if that’s the right word – with student productions is that, by definition, absolutely everyone is played by a student, such that one really does have to suspend disbelief at the door. With that in mind, Hannah Macpherson and Jake Lomas do well as Elle’s Mom and Dad (yes, Mom and not Mum: the show is, after all, set in the USA), even if they are relatively minor characters. In the same vein, Fritz’s Callahan, the experienced law professor who has been around the block more than a few times, at face value (in this production) looks the same age as his protégé Emmett Forrest (Brendan Mageean). So, to convince, committed and outstanding acting is required, and Fritz utterly nails it.

Come to think of it, there wasn’t a weak link as far as I could deduce (unless one had preconceived notions of how a character should be portrayed, and there’s nothing the production can really do about that). Although not quite flawless at the performance I attended, the sound design (Chris Tanton) was better than the 2009-2012 Savoy Theatre production – I recall listening to the cast recording and discovering lines and lyrics I hadn’t properly understood in the West End show. Here, those same lines and lyrics were crystal clear, and a nine-piece band, led by Phil Cornwell, were superb, gliding through the various styles of the musical numbers seemingly effortlessly.

The narrative is not difficult to follow in a production that shifts very well from university lecture hall to student digs to communal areas thanks to some simple but effective set changes along the way. In an era where the smashing the glass ceiling and promoting equality and diversity in the workplace are prominent, this story of a would-be socialite changing tack and pursuing a legal career is both uplifting and highly relevant. Some events in the musical have a different significance now, just shy of a decade before the show was first seen in London – for instance, it only occurred to me watching this production that one of Elle’s experiences is something that #MeToo, years later, highlighted and addressed.

There was a lot to enjoy in a show that felt a lot shorter than its 150-minute running time, and it’s always good to see a company clearly enjoying themselves on stage. Florence Russell’s Paulette is far more charming than she is irritating – a romance with Harry Newton’s Kyle (an employee of the delivery company UPS, which is all the description fans of the show require) is a hoot, as is a love declaration by Bobby Harding’s Nikos and George Fairclough’s Carlos to close out ‘Gay or European’.

But as ever, perhaps the most affection is reserved for the dogs who make brief but memorable appearances. Omigod you guys, the future of musical theatre is looking very positive indeed. What a show. What an Elle of a show.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

CREATIVES
Director Guy Unsworth
Musical Director Phil Cornwell
Choreographer Nicky Griffiths
Set & Costume designer Stewart J Charlesworth
Lighting Nic Farman
Sound Chris Tanton

CAST
Warner Calum Rickman
Emmett Brendan Mageean
Elle Poppy Louise Cooper* / Eleanor Turner**
Callahan Barney Fritz
Paulette Florence Russell
Brooke Francesca Mae Smith* / Nichol Renton-Charmin**
Kyle Harry Newton
Vivienne Rebecca d’Lacey* / Alessia Watson**
Margot Jenny Coates
Kate Amy Blanchard
Bruiser George Fairclough
Grand Master Chad Kate Claussen
Aaron Bobby Harding
Enid Hannah Qureshi
Dewey Jake Lomas
Nikos Bobby Harding
Serena Emily Harper
Pilar Tabitha Halkes
Elle’s Dad Jake Lomas
Elle’s Mum Hannah Macpherson
Carlos George Fairclough
Delta Nu GC Hannah Macpherson / Amy Blanchard / Amy Louise Lonergan / Kate Claussen
Andrew Michael McGeough
Winthrop Thomas Wareham
Store Manager Amy Louise Lonergan
Chutney Amy Blanchard
Whitney Kate Claussen
Profzheimer Jake Lomas
Rufus George Fairclough
Prison Guard Jake Lomas
Lowell George Fairclough
Judge Hannah Macpherson
TV rep in court Francesca Mae Smith* / Nichol Renton-Charmin**
Later girl Amy Louise Lonergan
Sales Girl Rebecca d’Lacey* / Alessia Watson**
Stenographer Rebecca d’Lacey* / Alessia Watson**
Cat Lady Kate Claussen
District Attorney Eleanor Turner* / Poppy Louise Cooper**

https://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/

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