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The verdict on the musical version of the film
From dizzy blonde to legal eagle this fantastic feel-good musical charts the unlikely career path of Elle Woods, a Californian homecoming queen who is probably the last person you'd think would become a lawyer. With the spring sun shining brightly in Birmingham on opening night, the audience at the New Alexandra Theatre was already in high spirits at curtain-up time and the kaleidoscope of colour, the energy of the cast and the wit and rhythm of the songs just made everyone feel even better.
Film fans already know all about Elle from the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie, Legally Blonde, based on the book by Amanda Brown who was inspired to write it by her own experiences at law school. It tells how seemingly air-head Elle, obsessed with shopping, her appearance and her pet Chihuahua, wins a place at Harvard law school to impress her boyfriend who has just dumped her.
In this musical version, with songs by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, Elle is played by former X Factor finalist and last year's UK Eurovision Song Contest entrant Lucie Jones. She may be an unnatural blonde but she can certainly belt out a tune and even has a few daring dance moves. She also exhibits a talent for comedy, with some of her comic facial expressions gaining deserved laughter from the audience.
It seems that no touring musical is complete nowadays without at least one former soap star whose familiar name will help attract extra attention and ticket sales. Legally Blonde has two Rita Simons, formerly Roxy Mitchell in Eastenders, and Bill Ward, of Coronation Street and Emmerdale fame.
Rita plays hairdresser Paulette Bonafont้, who becomes Elle's friend and confidante when she begins attending Harvard. Rita is sensational, revealing a strong singing voice, great comic timing (especially when she meets hunky parcel deliveryman Kyle) and a passion for Riverdancing!
Bill Ward (pictured below) is a theatre veteran and always turns in a reliable performance, seemingly without breaking into a sweat. His Professor Callahan (Elle's tutor, who turns into a 'baddie') strides around the stage with, seemingly, not a care in the world. But Bill makes him so believable that he's even booed by some at curtain call!
The real strength of Legally Blonde: The Musical is the supporting cast. Every performer deserves plaudits for their enthusiasm, energy and song and dance talent. Particularly memorable are Helen Petrovna who, as fitness guru Brooke Wyndham, leads the group in an impressive skipping rope routine, and David Barrett (below) as Elle's law classmate and mentor Emmett Forrest whose transformation from scruffy student to well-dressed lawyer met with the approval of some enthusiastic audience members.
And let's not forget the two dogs in the show Bruisey Williams-Dodd as Bruiser the Chihuahua and Harry as Rufus the Bulldog. They come close to stealing the show every time they saunter or, in Bruiser's case, are carried onstage.
The verdict? A winner all the way!
Venue: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Legally Blonde: The Musical 2018 UK tour dates:
Until May 26: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham;
May 28 June 2: Milton Keynes Theatre;
June 4 9: Liverpool Empire;
June 11 16: Theatre Royal, Brighton;
June 18 23: New Wimbledon Theatre;
June 25 30: Palace Theatre, Manchester.