It’s a time-honoured tale. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, boy breaks up with girl and she, with dogged enthusiasm, follows him to Harvard. Unfortunately however, imbibed with as much hot pink and high sucrose energy as any sane individual could be expected to handle, this production of Legally Blonde: The Musical is a disappointingly pale imitation of its iconic predecessors.
The show comes across lacklustre, with uninspired performances, lazy choreography and cartoon-ish sets. One would be forgiven for thinking this show was suffering from budget constraints, but the issue seems to lie more with the production team’s ill-founded complacency assuming the bubble-gum storyline and catchy refrain don’t need the care and attention to detail required of other forms of theatre.
There’s also no doubt that the sparkly songs have planted some seriously insidious ear-worms (‘Omigod You Guys’ being a particularly memorable tune). Perhaps it is a new breed of panto-camp theatre that I am not taking to as well as I should. The up-scaled Barbie’s fun house that stood for the sorority house didn’t look sound enough for the actors to confidently perform upon it. Yet, despite this, the daughters of Delta Nu trooped on with their unoriginal and repetitive dance routines.
I do not wish to appear entirely curmudgeonly, and I am keen to stress that the show does have moments to gladden the heart. I remain a sucker for animal stars, and the dogs, Bruiser and Rufus, certainly stole the show!
The heart and soul of Legally Blonde is ex X-factor hopeful Lucie Jones, a definite one to watch, as her professionalism and talent certainly provided a much-needed glint of talent amongst the chaos of choreography on stage. Jones had a bubbly and compelling energy that really embodied the role of Elle, but her faultless vocals were not enough to rescue a floundering production.
Another quote-unquote ‘star’ billing of the show did not fare so well. Bill Ward has a background of playing unsavoury characters in soaps like Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and so it is surprising and undoubtedly disappointing when Ward presented the audience with a Professor Callahan that not only barely limps through his musical numbers, but fails to deliver on one of the very few salient scenes in Legally Blonde.
At this point in social history, with many of us still sifting through the debris of the Weinstein tsunami, the role of a powerful and intimidating influencer who tries to take sexual advantage of his position is unavoidably pertinent. Even in a show in which there is such unrelenting cheeriness as this, the points of tension are failed by what seems to be an attempt to make every character somewhat likeable. Callahan’s pass at Elle is brushed off within seconds and the character is presented dashing as ever in later scenes.
Ultimately, Legally Blonde: The Musical has missed its mark, packing very little of the emotional relatability of previous productions, with poor choreography that leaves once bright and shiny roles rather dull. Regardless of the sweet, sentimental veneer, it’s a hot pink train-wreck.
Legally Blonde: The Musical
Runs until 2nd December
Photo Credit: Robert Workman