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Review Roundup: LEGALLY BLONDE at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Review Roundup: LEGALLY BLONDE at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Six's Lucy Moss directs the musical, which is led by Courtney Bowman.

Omigod you guys, meet fashion merchandising major Elle Woods and her college sweetheart Warner Huntington III. Popular, stylish, they have the perfect relationship. That is until Warner heads to Harvard Law School and decides that he needs a more 'serious' kind of girlfriend. Dumped, Elle embarks on a drastic plan to win him back. But, on the way, she discovers that there's more to love - and definitely Elle Woods - than meets the eye.

Principal cast include Courtney Bowman (Elle) Michael Ahomka-Lindsay (Emmett), Lauren Drew (Brooke), Vanessa Fisher (Vivienne), Isaac Hesketh (Margot), Nadine Higgin (Paulette), Alžbeta Matyšáková (Enid), Eugene McCoy (Callahan), Grace Mouat (Pilar), Alistair Toovey (Warner), and Hannah Yun Chamberlain (Serena).

Directed by Lucy Moss, co-writer and co-director of the smash-hit musical SIX, it's time to bend and snap, people! The production runs until July 2nd at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.

Let's see what the critics had to say...


Cindy Marcolina, BroadwayWorld: Courtney Bowman is a revelation, a star in the making. With a powerhouse voice, she is sassy, charismatic, and utterly perfect as Elle. Moss makes it clear that Warner is no match for her and Alistair Toovey delivers a bland, spineless sleaze of a man, drawing a parallel with Michael Ahomka-Lindsay's humble but assured Emmett.

Arifa Akbar, Guardian: The gender politics feel entirely overhauled, as does its central blond bombshell - previously played in London by Sheridan Smith. Where both she and Witherspoon were classic white blonds, Bowman's blond-braided Elle is entirely different. There are few cookie-cutter blonds here in fact, and in a show that seems squarely aimed at teenagers, Elle captures a Gen-Z spirit of girl power. She spells her moral messages out loud and clear ("I believe in sisterhood"), but this heavy-handedness can't be faulted in a musical that trades on its lack of subtlety.

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: Though reimagined and reinvented for contemporary sensibilities, the show sometimes falls foul of current events: jokes about the Supreme Court, and Ireland being "the land where dreams come true" clang like cracked bells. The mystique of the law in America has become steadily more tarnished since Amanda Brown wrote down her own experiences of bullying at Harvard on pink paper in 1993, kicking off the Legally Blonde phenomenon. But none of this is Moss's fault and the exuberance of her production largely steamrollers over quibbles.

Clive Davis, The Times: Go with an open mind and you'll be blown away. True, the show by Laurence O'Keefe, Nell Benjamin and bookwriter Heather Hach - which first reached Broadway in 2007 - has a head start on the movie. It's far wittier, with insidious melodies and lyrics that are cheeky enough to rhyme "snobs" with "Thomas Hobbes".

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut London: If you've always been desperate to see 'Legally Blonde' but more so, then you probably already have tickets, and are unlikely to be disappointed. A lot of very excitable pink-wearing people in the audience were clearly living their best lives. For me, it hovered somewhere between bemusing excess and a disappointingly unadventurous attempt to modernise a musical and story that feels ripe for a more robust interrogation. Still, it's worth a look, for the gimp man-dog alone.

Sam Marlowe, iNews: Moss's version ditches the white-bread, hetero limitations of the original musical, delivering a celebration of diversity with its tongue so resolutely lodged in its cheek that it's a wonder the cast can belt out the numbers. But belt them out they do, with an exuberance that, though hard to resist, can't disguise an issue as glaring as Elle's hot pink outfits: from Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's forgettable cotton-candy songs to Heather Hach's skimpy book, the show is utterly disposable.

Tim Bano, The Stage: Front and centre is Courtney Bowman's assured Elle, luxuriant in blonde braids. By shifting Elle and her peers away from the traditional standards of beauty - slim, blonde, white - Moss finds a way to actually deepen the show's message. As Elle says: "Being true to yourself never goes out of style" - and the people being true to themselves here aren't Hollywood mannequins. They're more representative of society as a whole.

Marianka Swain, The Arts Desk: Effective updates include contemporary references to the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Timothée Chalamet and Instagram, plus tweaks to the script like Elle saying the famous "bend and snap" seduction works on bi and straight men, rather than just the latter. A number pondering whether a witness is "gay or European" is the biggest tonal high-wire act, but Moss gets it absolutely right: the joke is on the questioners, and ultimately the scene is a celebration of gay love, glittering with rainbow lights. Elle, as warmly embodied by Bowman, also stresses the need for supportive sisterhood and being true to yourself - messaging that we could all take to heart. Another triumphant musical reinvention at the Park.

Sophi Thomas, London Theatre: Thankfully, Lucy Moss's direction excellently captures today's multi-generational issues. A few line changes here and there - of course Elle Woods would know Timothée Chalamet - bring a current focus to Legally Blonde which makes it the must-see feel-good musical. Praise must go to Natalie Gallacher as casting director, as the Legally Blonde cast reflect a diverse society, and it's something which the wider theatre community should take note of.

Holly O'Mahoney, Culture Whisper: Performances, though, are strong. Bowman brings bundles of energy and precision to the part of Elle, capturing her idealism and naive likeability. Nadine Higgin is the backbone of the show and one of its strongest singers in the role of Elle's rock and friend Paulette. Vanessa Fisher bristles with snooty poise as Elle's antagonist Vivienne, and Michael Ahomka-Lindsay commandeers the stage as the loveable Emmett. Legally Blonde the Musical has a self-selecting audience who will come, most dressed in pink, regardless of grumbles about the sound - and this reviewer is not here to dissuade them; it's fluffy, frivolous and fun.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

 

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