Pink is in abundance at the Savoy theatre as Sheridan Smith steps into the Jimmy Choos of Californian sorority girl turned lawyer Elle Woods.
Designer David Rockwell starts the musical in a kind of Barbie house, where Elle’s UCLA chums are desperate to know if their sorority sister has been proposed to by her very own Ken doll, Warner. As it turns out, he hasn’t popped the question. Instead he dumps our heroine to go to Harvard Law School claiming that Elle, in all her pink and blonde glory, isn’t serious enough to be wife material. And so begins the plot of Legally Blonde The Musical, which sets Elle on a path of self-discovery as she heads to Harvard in pursuit of Warner.
Fans of the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon will know that this is a story about a girl who finds out there is more under that layer of pink than even she thought. The heart-warmingly moralistic nature of the story translates well to the stage in Jerry Mitchell’s energetic musical version, but is saved from being saccharine sweet by Smith, who manages to makes Elle adorable and admirable at the same time. This Elle may be a little less refined than Witherspoon’s – she looks a bit Britney Spears in that pink velour tracksuit – but with great comic timing Smith shows both the vulnerability and the toughness under the ultra-groomed Malibu girl as Elle determines to do Harvard her way, always picking herself up after being knocked down by all around her.
All, that is, except love-interest Emmett, played by Alex Gaumond in Geography teacher shabby-chic. He couldn’t be more of a contrast to Duncan James’s flashy Warner, who seems to exist permanently in his own pop video, all come-to-bed eyes and chiselled jaw. James fits the part well and shows himself a good sport in one particular number as he sings lyrics that allude to recent reports about his sexuality.
Elsewhere in the cast, Jill Halfpenny plays beautician Paulette with gusto, revelling in a show-stealing number about her penchant for Irish men; Peter Davison is the cartoonish baddie of the piece, Law lecturer Professor Callahan; and Aoife Mulholland shows off an impressive washboard stomach as fitness instructor and murder suspect Brooke, who Elle has to defend in court. Entertaining support comes from Elle’s relentlessly chirpy sorority buddies who pop up in her thoughts as a self-proclaimed Greek chorus whenever our heroine is feeling a bit down.
Though, at times, belief has to be suspended a little too much – Elle’s cheerleading-style application to Harvard is one such occasion – this is all part of the fun, and Legally Blonde The Musical is indeed a fun and thoroughly entertaining show. The music is catchy – the reprised Omigod You Guys will stay in your head all night – the dancing is snappy – respect must be given to Mulholland and company, who achieve the incredible feat of singing whilst skipping – and the enjoyment that the cast seem to be having transmits to the audience. Even the two dogs in the show seem quite happy to be there.
Not every film to stage adaptation pulls it off, but Legally Blonde The Musical shows that the trend still has some legs in it yet.