“You must admit that Elle Woods should join the chosen few”
Part of the fun of delving back into these soundtracks, so many of which I’ve had for a while, is challenging the preconceptions that I’ve allowed to build up in my mind. Sister Act the musical is the perfect example, mentally I didn’t rate it so hadn’t listened to it for an age but upon taking the time, I discovered it to be better than I remembered. That works both ways though and I’ve long rated the Legally Blonde the Musical soundtrack on this basis, even though it really stems from me having my favourite four tracks from it on my most listened to playlist.
So yes, ‘Omigod You Guys’ and ‘What You Want’ are two brilliant songs and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Their glossy joie de vivre setting the scene perfectly for this camp-as-tits show and book-ended by the highly amusing ‘There, Right There!’ and the emotive title track which segues from its gorgeous ballad treatment into an energetic 11 o’clock number, there are some cracking musical moments in this show and with national-treasure-in-the-making Sheridan Smith at its helm as the determined Elle Woods, how could it be otherwise.
But truth be told, there’s quite a soggy middle in which bland number follows bland number and the musical energy saps from the score. Even as good a character as hairdresser Paulette (Jill Halfpenny here) isn’t really served that well by composers Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin (she’s rewarded better by Heather Hach’s book) nor many of the supporting characters, even Alex Gaumond’s ostensible male lead Emmett. Duncan James’ Warner makes no real impact, Peter Davison’s Professor Callahan is fine but Aoife Mulholland’s athletic Brooke probably gets the best deal in ‘Whipped Into Shape’.
But being able to pick and choose (and bend and snap) means you can come up with your own edited highlights that pick out your favourite moments. Smith’s emotional honesty shines through many of her songs and the Delta Nu sisters Amy Lennox, Susan McFadden and Ibinabo Jack are a vivid delight as an excitable Greek chorus – maybe one just to purchase single tracks from instead of the whole thing…