BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
The stage adaptation of hit 2001 comedy film Legally Blonde premiered on Broadway in 2007, and subsequently enjoyed a run of more than two years at London's Savoy Theatre from late 2009, winning three Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. A first UK tour ran concurrently with the London production in 2011.
Elle Woods loves to be pampered and is passionate about pink. When she is ditched by her boyfriend Warner 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 to win Warner back. With the support of her new friends, she learns that you can be both smart and fashionable.
The staging of this production is smaller scale than even the previous UK tour. Whilst the opening number, "Omigod You Guys", is still amongst the catchiest in a rich score, its reconceived staging on bicycles looks somewhat economical and - in that first five minutes - leaves one longing for previous productions.
After this, however, the changes introduced for this tour become less noticeable and - in no small way due to the principal actors - the score shines through to an extent not seen since the Broadway production. There are some effective new orchestrations too.
Lucie Jones, fresh from representing the United Kingdom in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, may lack the vivacity of Laura Bell Bundy and the cheekiness of Sheridan Smith, however her vocals are beautiful to listen to. During the first half she presents a gawky, less confident Elle than either Bundy or Smith, but this does serve to make her character's transformation into successful, assured Elle all the more believable.
Bill Ward has the unenviable task - especially considering the current news climate - of playing the sleazy Professor Callahan, but the TV soap veteran is never less than convincing here, and he has a better singing voice than some of his Callahan predecessors this side of the Atlantic.
It is another soap veteran, Rita Simons, who shines the most, however. As hairdresser Pauline, she gains the fourth-loudest applause of the evening for "Ireland", only losing out to Bruiser the dog, the arrival of the USPS delivery man, and Rufus the (other) dog. It's the London lyrics rather than the Broadway lyrics of "Ireland" which are presented here, and these lyrics have never been conveyed so richly.
"There! Right There!" may begin like an extract from Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial By Jury, but it descends into a hilarious set-piece. David Barrett gives an appropriately touching performance as Emmett, and Liam Doyle an appropriately smug performance as Warner, whilst the hard-working ensemble often gives the impression that there are more actors present on stage than there actually are.
One perhaps yearns for more musicals based on new material, but, when film adaptations are as good as this one, it's proof that these are sometimes welcome too. Legally Blonde is feisty, funny, slick, tuneful and engaging, and this touring production doesn't disappoint.
Picture credit: Robert Workman