REVIEW: Legally Blonde The Musical (New Wimbledon Theatre) ★★★★
Omigod You Guys, Legally Blonde The Musical is back! Having premiered on Broadway in 2007, it opened to rave reviews and was nominated for seven Tony Awards and received ten Drama Desk nominations. Following this breakout success the production was filmed for MTV and a reality television programme was created showing the audition process for the next person to play Elle Woods on Broadway. A West End production opened in January of 2010 at The Savoy Theatre and was nominated for five Olivier Awards and won three, including Best New Musical. Following a 2017 tour, which received five star critical acclaim, a sparkling new production for has been mounted and is in London for a short run at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and MGM motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrols at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III. Elle soon learns that Harvard isn’t like the sorority she’s use to and is shunned by Warner, his new beau Viviane Kensington and her Harvard teacher Professor Callahan. Defeated Elle heads to her happy place and meets stylist Paulette Bonafonte who reminds Elle she’s worth so much more. Defying expectations and with the help of totally crush-worthy Emmett Forrest, Elle realises her knowledge of the law can help her friends and she successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial all the while staying true to herself and her beliefs.
In this dazzling production Lucie Jones plays Elle Woods, Rita Simmons is Paulette Bonafonte and Bill Ward as Professor Callahan with David Barrett as Emmett, Liam Doyle as Warner Huntington III and Laura Harrison as Vivienne Kensington. Lucie Jones shines as Elle Woods handling the complicated vocal effortlessly and adding her own touches to really bring Elle to life in a powerful and at times mischievous way. A tour de force onstage, Jones achieves a colourful performance giving a refreshing characterisation and really making Elle Woods her own.
David Barrett as Emmett is every part the lovable geek. His performance of Chip On My Shoulder is a particular highlight of the show and it’s easy to see why Jones’s Elle falls for him. Bill Ward as Professor Callahan is acted and sung well, giving a fun, confident and polished performance throughout. Ever the villain, Ward managed to get some hisses form the audience during the curtain call, a sign of an appreciated and well executed performance. Liam Doyle as the handsome Warner was well cast and the vocal he gave during Serious really let his beautiful voice be heard. Laura Harrison as Vivienne was a delight and her turn in the title song was a definite highlight. Rita Simmons as Paulette is perhaps the most surprising performance of the evening. As Paulette, Simmons steals the show with a powerful vocal and you could really tell she was enjoying the character immensely even when her doggie co-star may not have been as co-operate as she’d hoped. The ensemble played characters ranging from Elle’s parents, to frat boys, prison inmates and a Judge Judy-esque high court judge and were a delight to watch. Each character and vocal expertly performed giving the show an overall polished look and feel during the high energy performances.
What I found jarring about this production was the design. The sets looked rather worn, the trucks were chunky and the use of curtains to hide scene changes was overused and seemed outdated for such a recently written musical. During the opening number “Omigod You Guys!” a Delta Nu rode a bike onstage and the other girls rode bikes fixed to trucks and peddled away during the first part of the song. I imagine the bikes fixed to trucks were supposed to give the illusion of travelling, however why not just have them actually ride their bikes like the first girl or put them on exercise cycles because they don’t go anywhere in the first place, turning the number into what it was bikes not moving with their wheels going. This seemed an odd choice. Perhaps bike riding is big with sororities in the US? The sets were in an exaggerated cartoon style look which could have been executed well, however overall I found the illustrations, colours used and designs more shabby than chic.
UK Productions Ltd have been producing musicals, plays and pantomimes for over 22 years around the UK, internationally and in the West End. Despite this productions design flaws, Legally Blonde remains a joyous, colourful musical with killer vocals and a message of being true to yourself. Wearing pink and with a glass filled with bubbles, Legally Blonde is a perfect night out at the New Wimbledon Theatre for anyone with a dream and the knowledge to execute the perfect bend and snap!
Reviewed by Stuart James