Saturday, September 18, 2010

'Legally Blonde' Colors the Savoy - The Review

On Broadway, ‘Legally Blonde’ was so loud and over-produced that it swamped any good performances or material in the story or score. It was almost downright distracting. But something happened on the way to London. The musical on stage at the Savoy Theatre is much better than one would expect.

Another stage musical adaptation of a hit movie, the story remains the same. College sweetheart Elle Woods doesn’t take no for an answer. So when her boyfriend dumps her for someone serious, Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books and heads for Harvard Law. Along the way, Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.

Sheridan Smith as Elle delivers the bubbly charm required for the role. Early in the show there’s a very slight giggle in her voice that serves as a nod to the audience: the joke is this show is ludicrous but it's funny and I’m going to show you a good time. And indeed she does. Pitch perfect from beginning to end.

The supporting role of Warner, Elle’s ex-boyfriend, has been elevated to a star vehicle. First with the lead singer of Blue (Duncan James) and now succeeded by UK actor/singer Richard Fleeshman. Much more suave than oily, his portrayal is that of a misguided soul. One more thing about Fleeshman. Obviously cut from the Di Caprio mold, it should be illegal for a guy to be this pretty.

Overall the musical is more focused on the performances than the design and that is this productions absolute strength. For example the role of Paulette (Jill Halfpenney) is subdued and not as brassy which explains explains her insecurities. The huge sets are still there but these actors know how not to be upstaged by a piece of scenery.

This is the third time I’ve seen this show (It was only slightly better on the US tour). The biggest disappointment is the continued inclusion of the first number for act two called ‘Whipped into Shape’. This number is filler and should be thrown out altogether. Despite some delightful songs in the score, this has to be one of the worst songs ever performed on stage.

But it’s the cast that makes this version of ‘Legally Blonde’ work. If the entire cast is really British I am further impressed. There is just the right amount of understatement that makes these characters feel almost real. Oh and by the way, the ‘Riverdance’ spoof is priceless.



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