“You can’t come in here with all your singing, dancing and…ethnic movements”
If Priscilla Queen of the Desert was the marshmallow on top of the whipped cream on top of your cocoa, then Legally Blonde is the full mug of the best Viennese hot chocolate you can imagine. Sticking closely to the story of the film, with just a little streamlining, we follow Elle Woods, a Malibu princess and sorority queen whose world is rocked when her boyfriend leaves her for Harvard Law School and the pursuit of someone more ‘serious’. Elle then follows him but ends up finding out a lot more about herself than she anticipated. The book is completely original and I found it surprisingly good, the opening numbers of ‘Ohmigod you guys’ and ‘What You Want’ were both great tunes, ‘Ohmigod’ in particular will not leave your head for hours! There are of course some weaker numbers in there, but never any boring ones which is achievement enough.
This show should be the making of Sheridan Smith as a real star. Channelling less Reese Witherspoon and more Anna Faris (of Scary Movie etc), her Elle sounds great, captures the heart and plays with it effortlessly. Interestingly, she’s quite goofy as well and I liked this almost screwball feel. Ms Smith should be commended for an excellent turn here, but also for her generosity of performance as well, she’s often to be found doing back-up dancing and singing during her colleagues’ numbers: a rare sight from a lead in a musical and a very welcome one.
One of its main strengths is that it is cast almost perfectly, not just with the leads but amongst the supporting roles as well. Aoife Mulholland (who appears to be pure muscle) made a great impact as the accused Brooke, singing effortlessly whilst skipping which can’t be easy; Alex Gaumond’s scruffy love interest is perfectly charming; Susan MacFadden brought great warmth to Elle’s cheerleading buddy; Jill Halfpenny’s lovelorn Paulette is funny and gets a brief hilarious opportunity to show off her dancing skills; Peter Davison as the sleazy legal profesor; Caroline Keiff’s icy Vivienne is nicely played too, I could go on! In fact the only real mis-step for me is Duncan James, he’s not bad, but his singing is so pop that it really does stand out and I do wonder what level of heartthrobness he actually brings to the show.
This care for the casting has also been extended to the rest of the company, even the swings, with a diversity of look which really works as it means that a different and authentic feel can be achieved in all of the scenes. One of Priscilla’s weaknesses was that the highly tanned, very muscular look that seemed to be the prerequisite and which looked fantastic in the outlandish costumes struggled to convince when trying to play the very essence of Australian heterosexual blokehood.
In the end, it is just really good fun: funny throughout with good original songs, but it is also tethered to an engaging story and the message of not judging people on first appearance and of the potential of self-discovery cheesy as it sounds, elevates this above the crowd of jukebox musicals. The fact that I am still beaming thinking about this show, more than 24 hours after I saw it, is testament enough for me that this is a winner. Omigod you guys, snaps for everyone, gays and Europeans!