Legally Blonde – The Musical

November 2, 2022 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆    Energetic

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 1 – Sat 5 Nov 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Allegro’s version of Legally Blonde – The Musical at the Church Hill Theatre until Saturday is bold, brash and full of impact.

The story of Elle Woods, the Californian sorority queen who goes to Harvard Law School in order to prove to her erstwhile boyfriend she is more serious than anyone thinks, is a familiar one.

Laura Green as Elle with the cast of Allegro’s Legally Blonde the Musical. Pic: Rachel Bolton Photography

Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Heather Hach’s 2007 musical originates in Amanda Brown’s novel, but undoubtedly owes its existence to the movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

The film – like its central character – turns out to be much smarter than a first glance would suggest, which is not necessarily something that could be said about the musical.

Its clear reliance on the movie’s structure leads to a lopsided, episodic nature not helped by a selection of musical numbers that (with a couple of notable exceptions) are decidedly undistinguished.

candy-coated camp

Nevertheless, the musical’s primary-coloured, candy-coated camp has a definite appeal. It is a favourite with grassroots companies, not least for its heartening selection of pivotal female roles.

These are undoubtedly done justice by a company that is notably strong vocally. Laura Green is more of a steely determined figure than any kind of fluffy one as Elle, and radiates a tuneful integrity.

Laura Green as Elle and Greg McCafferty Thomson as Warner in Allegro’s Legally Blonde the Musical. Pic: Rachel Bolton Photography

Rachael Anderson, as Elle’s confidante and conscience, the beautician Paulette, nails the part’s comedy, and has an exceptionally strong voice. She also provides some unexpected gravitas which even manages to give her signature song, the unfathomable Ireland, considerable pathos.

They are backed up by some strong male leads, which is not always the case with this show. Greg McCafferty Thomson gives Elle’s one-time fiancé Warner a beautiful oily smoothness. He is an expressive singer, something that can also be said for Joe Purcell, who plays the surprisingly decent trainee lawyer Emmett.

Russell Coid, meanwhile, is horribly plausible as amoral lecturer Professor Callahan; Cameron Kirby’s delivery driver is a beautifully judged comic cameo.

Structure

There is no doubt that the structure means the second act is often less successful, particularly as some of it is starting to look terribly dated already. It is odd that a storyline supposedly preaching the evils of stereotyping and judging by appearances is so weirdly preoccupied with the benefits of being straight, white, thin and American.

Some recent productions have sought to confront this head on, which does not really happen here. However, the performances of Jo Heinemeier as Vivienne the uptight ‘preppie’ and Amy King as the cartoon feminist are rounded enough to give these potentially problematic roles real life.

A Scene from Allegro’s Legally Blonde – The Musical. Pic: Rachel Bolton Photography

Louisa Everett, meanwhile, is suitably energetic as exercise guru Brooke, in routines that feature particularly strong work from Felicity Halfpenny, whose choreography is outstanding throughout. All of the cast, however, have to be resigned to the fact that they are of course bound to be upstaged by the two real-life canine performers on display.

At times MD James McCutcheon’s huge band threaten to drown out the singing, although there is no denying the driving and combative spirit with which they approach the score.

Just because you can have a ten-strong band does not necessarily mean it is a good idea, which is something that is occasionally reflected in the staging.

thoroughly effective

Often the maximalist approach pays dividends. The usual ‘Greek chorus’ is made up of three characters. Here, Anna Spence, Monica Fowler and Rebecca Drever, who give beautifully expansive and thoroughly effective performances, are always backed up by an all-singing, all-dancing troupe. Which works brilliantly.

However, at other times there is too much going on. The crucial early scene where Elle, expecting a proposal, is instead dumped, is not necessarily enhanced by a stage filled with other couples, each apparently with their own stories to tell, who draw the eye away from the action.

On the whole, however, the ensemble is very well used by director Dominic Lewis, whose pacy exuberance works wonders. The sheer numbers in the cast also help to make this production an object lesson in how to use onstage furniture and still flow smoothly between scenes.

George Cort’s lighting is also effective, although prone to overusing the dramatic sweep across (and even beyond) the stage.

There is so much obvious love and thought in every aspect of this production that it cannot help being a genuine crowd pleaser.

Running time 2 hours 35 minutes including one interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 November 2022
Evenings at 7.30 pm, Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Allegro website: https://allegromusical.co.uk

Facebook: @allegromusical

A Scene from Allegro’s Legally Blonde – The Musical. Pic: Rachel Bolton Photography

ENDS

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