Legally Blonde

Music & lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, book by Heather Hach, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture.

Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, and touring

(2011)

Review by Iain James Finlayson

Omigod! Omigod, you guys! Legally Blonde is at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent as part of its UK tour! Based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical adaptation opened on Broadway in 2007 and in the West End in 2010. For those not familiar with the film, it follows Elle Woods as she moves from California to study law at Harvard in an attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington the Third by proving she is "serious".

Hollywood loves making films about people overcoming prejudice in order to succeed but Elle is the most unlikely of underdogs. She is rich and beautiful and her only affliction is that she is stereotyped by others as a 'dumb blonde'. This is exactly the view of her that Warner holds when he dumps her. But Elle sets out to prove him wrong and win him back.

We are all familiar with the ubiquitous "chick flick" films and "chick lit" novels and Legally Blonde is unashamedly a "chick" musical. It is enormously cheesy, but in enough of a tongue-in-cheek way that even the most cynical of audience members can't help but be swept up. It features not one, but two cute dogs live on stage, eye candy in the form of hunky delivery man Michael Vinsen, who received wolf whistles and cat calls from the audience when he came on stage in his tight fitting uniform, and a set that is pink enough to burn your retinas.

The musical closely follows the film's original story but has a number of clever additions that work in a musical context. Most notable would be the addition of a storyline relating to beautician Paulette Buonufonté's (Claire Sweeney) dream of marrying an Irishman which allows the inclusion of an impressive Riverdance-style routine. Likewise the "Gay or European?" number during the courtroom scene had the audience in stitches. O'Keefe and Benjamin's music is typical Broadway fare but is catchy enough to be memorable.

The energy of the cast is infectious and Faye Brookes shines as Elle. The musical also allows more time for her relationship with mentor Emmett (Iwan Lewis) to develop than the film does. Legally Blonde reinforces as many stereotypes as it sets out to break, but it's fun and affectionate and ultimately its pro-education message is a positive one for young women.

At the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent until 1st October

David Chadderton reviewed this production at the Opera House, Manchester