“Some girls fight hard; some face the trial”
I have tickets for Legally Blonde – The Musical later this month after the cast change as the final part of my trip round the musicals, but when a friend offered me a last second ticket on a cold dark night, I thought why not and decided to give this show another whirl. A more detailed review of the show can be found here, this will focus more on the performances this time round. The cast is largely the same, Richard Fleeshman being the only major change having taken over from Duncan James, but I saw Andy Mace as Professor Callaghan, on for an indisposed Peter Davison.
This really is Sheridan Smith’s show: her energy and vivacity drive proceedings on so effortlessly and naturally and she really is a gifted comic performer, getting the laughs in throughout, but also finding real emotional depth too. There was some unfortunate unscripted drama as she injured her shoulder (apparently nothing serious and not a dislocation as someone reported on Twitter) midway through the first half and the lights came back up as we anxiously waited to find out what would happen. She eventually resurfaced and continued bravely though in some discomfort, perversely lending the finale of Act I a real gritty, tear-jerking quality. An extended interval led us to suspect an understudy would appear, but to her credit, Smith finished the show and her second half performance showed no sign of the injury. I applaud her for continuing on and not wanting to disappoint her audience (who reciprocated with a raucous standing ovation) but I do worry about the physical toll this role is taking on her body, especially as she has now extended to January: it really is a demanding part, Elle is rarely off the stage and sings in the vast majority of the songs.
I’m not sure if Alex Gaumond was having an off night, but I was surprisingly unimpressed this time round, especially with his earlier vocal performances which all felt slightly off and always struggling to keep in tune, he didn’t seem comfortable all night. Shaven-headed Mace did well as Callaghan, coming across as a sexier, gay version of Davison but I struggled to like Fleeshman’s Warner, miscast against Smith as he looks too young, vocally he sounds nice but too full of pop stylings which obfuscated his lyrics, little attempt at acting and subsequently, there was no real element of musical theatre in his performance. It was nice to see Jill Halfpenny again after being somewhat disappointed in her recent cabaret turn, and seeing her obvious chemistry with Chris Ellis-Stanton more clearly this time round; and the Greek chorus of Delta Nu girls Amy Lennox, Susan McFadden and Ibinabo Jack always provide great interest whenever they’re on stage.
I adored this show when I first saw it, which I think was a little bit of an overstatement on second viewing. The show opens strongly with two of its best tunes, but after that there is too much blandness in the music until we finally hit the first, tearful rendition of Legally Blonde (which in its brief duet version is the best bit of the show I think) that there’s anything hummable. There’s lots of great comedy in-between to be sure and it still rates as a great night out, just not the unqualified success I convinced myself it was last time round.