Album Review: Legally Blonde (2010 Original London Cast)

“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. Continue reading “Album Review: Legally Blonde (2010 Original London Cast)”

Review: The Sound of Music, Open Air Theatre

“But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past there must have been a moment of truth”

Despite never having seen it on the stage before, I hadn’t originally intended to go and see the Open Air Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music. But whilst on holiday, we watched the film on TV en famille whereupon I was reminded of its charms and hearing the good reviews of this production, duly set about booking tickets for an evening when I hoped the sun would shine. And I clearly had some good theatrical karma as a glorious summer’s evening set up what a simply delightful evening of old school musical entertainment.

It may not be the most adventurous of programming choices and Rachel Kavanaugh’s production plays a very straight bat but in many ways, this is why it is so successful. Its straightforward simplicity allows for a direct emotional hit, one which plays off the indubitable familiarity of so much of the material but also the opportunities offered by this open air venue and the freshness of a supremely talented cast. Charlotte Wakefield’s Maria and Michael Xavier’s Captain may initially seem more youthful than one might expect but together they work like a dream, combining with the whole company to create the kind of warmth that would brighten even the soggiest of September evenings (the run has extended by a week due to its success). Continue reading “Review: The Sound of Music, Open Air Theatre”

Review: Sweet Smell of Success, Arcola Theatre

“A lot can happen in one night”

The stereotypical image of musical theatre as a happy clappy ball of cheesy fun would surely be less prevalent if shows like Sweet Smell of Success were better known. But paradoxically, it benefits from having its British premiere out on the fringe in the dark warehouse surroundings of Dalston’s Arcola as this bitterly desperate tale of the hollowness at the centre of the world of celebrity journalism in 1950s America certainly benefits from the intimacy of this theatre. It has its challenges though, as an uncompromisingly bleak tale of immorality which doesn’t always quite get the balance right as director Mehmet Ergen tries to leaven the mood. 

John Guare’s story centres on JJ Hunsecker, a vicious-tongued and immensely influential columnist who has 60 million readers and is willing to do absolutely anything to keep them and his lofty position. His weakness lies in his troublingly deep affection for his half-sister Susan and his attempts to manipulate her life and her relationships threaten to drag all them down, including JJ’s protégé Sidney Falcone, all too willing to carry out his boss’s wishes in order to get the leg up he craves. The ethics of sensationalist journalism of course have a compelling currency in today’s post-Leveson environment but though David Bamber’s Hunsecker is at the centre of the story, there’s never really a sense that we get to know much about him. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Smell of Success, Arcola Theatre”

CD Review: Self Taught; Still Learning – The Music of Chris Passey

“How would you feel if you were me?”

Self Taught; Still Learning – The Music of Chris Passey is a collection of songs by new West Midlands composer Passey that enters the ever-growing list of albums showcasing new musical theatre writing sung by a range of West End stars. Many of these songs are taken from a concept musical called Bridges but others were written especially for the album and for the singers who agreed to perform. And in a nice touch, the profits from this CD are being split between the two charities MS Society and Cancer Research.

Which makes it a little sad to say that this is not an album that I particularly loved, something about it just didn’t click with me and despite a few listens, it isn’t a collection that feels destined to get repeat plays in this household. Things get off to a shaky start anyway with an intro by “YouTube’s Miranda Sings” – of whose schtick I’m not a fan and feeling a little at odds as a way to introduce this album and her performance of a song at the end feels rather misjudged even if it is just a bonus track- it is one joke stretched thinly and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to listen to more than 15 seconds of it. Continue reading “CD Review: Self Taught; Still Learning – The Music of Chris Passey”

Re-Review: Legally Blonde – The Musical, Savoy Theatre

“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. Continue reading “Re-Review: Legally Blonde – The Musical, Savoy Theatre”

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy

“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. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy”