BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE, Curve Theatre Leicester, April 14 2016
Legally Blonde the Musical has had an array of productions all over the world since its 2007 Broadway opening. Based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, the story of love, faith and pushing past stereotypes has being capturing the hearts of theatregoers ever since. Famous for its outstanding quality of work, the Curve in Leicester is currently presenting a brand new version of the show, helmed by Artistic Director Nikolai Foster. Following the success of Hairspray in 2014 which is still touring the UK, Legally Blonde is next in line to have the Curve treatment which, having just seen the production, stands a fighting chance of achieving the same accolades.
Heather Hach's book, accompanied by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's music and lyrics, is sharp and witty but to be fully realised, needs a company that can fulfil its intentions. Once you get over the glossiness of the proceedings, there is real depth and truth in the text.
Matthew Wright's design is brash, bold and very pink. There is not a massive amount of detail but a hugely effective 'sky light' piece at the top of the stage is angled to form different scenes and is often projected onto. A beautiful moment comes during 'Find My Way' when the addition of a night sky adds the goosebump factor - one of many moments like this. There is also a gauze upstage masking the musicians which is used effectively as a back drop. Furniture and props are either automated or brought on and off stage by the performers; all done very smoothly and effortlessly. Ben Cracknell's lighting lends itself well to the look of the show; using a much brighter colour palette than usual and with excellent use of followspots to knit the scenes together.
Whilst it is hard to alter some elements of the production, there are some lovely new orchestrations by Sarah Travis. The reggae section in 'What You Want' is now a Bollywood sequence which actually fits really nicely. Also there's a completely different spin after the revelation of Elle seeing her name on the list for Professor Callahan's internship during 'So Much Better'. It is a quiet moment of realisation that then builds into the final musical number of Act One; somewhat preferable to the original interpretation.
Nikolai Foster's direction is always on point. He gets the best of out of the actors and uses the stage space to its full capabilities. Looking at the show as a whole, Act One does seem a little more detached from the audience in places unlike Act Two which is undeniably electrifying for its duration. Nick Winston's choreography is very detailed and he seemingly draws a lot of inspiration from street dance and hip-hop. Because of this, Elle's character does seem less feminine when dancing than one would expect but this too is a welcome change in her characterisation. Lucie Jones is an understated and beautiful lead. She shook off her X Factor fame some years ago to form a solid theatrical career where she has excelled ever since. She is vocally flawless and there is something very natural about her in the role. Unlike her Elle predecessors, most notably Laura Bell Bundy and Sheridan Smith, she isn't quite as exaggerated and occasionally can throw away a comic line but Jones does not solely play for laughs; she just has a genuine girl-next-door likability. It's not quite as much of a rollercoaster ride with her character journey but a lovely one to witness.
Jon Robyns is perfect casting for Emmett. His geeky charm is radiant and his vocals are exemplary throughout. 'Chip On Your Shoulder' and 'Take It Like A Man' are particular highlights, also showcasing Robyns and Jones' evident chemistry. Tupele Dorgu as Paulette is hilarious and entirely believable whilst Danny Mac is a credible Warner. Although perhaps a character with little scope, he does well with the material given. Ian Kelsey plays the seedy Professor Callahan competently; he made one of my least favourite numbers 'Blood in the Water' a very good one. Another notable performance comes from pocket powerhouse Phoebe Street as Vivienne.
Supported by a strong ensemble, this show remains one of the most upbeat and fun nights out at the theatre. A complete delight.
Legally Blonde plays at the Curve in Leicester until Saturday 14 May 2016.
Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore