REVIEW: Legally Blonde

THINK pink is the clearly the theme at Milton Keynes Theatre this week as dizzy blonde Elle Woods makes her way through the elite Harvard law school in a riot of colour, sparkle and razzamatazz.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd August 2012, 10:27 am

The stage version of the hit film Legally Blonde is a musical comedy that brings a smile to everyone’s face as the scatty heroine goes from being something of a high school/college joke to taking her place in a US courtroom all in the name of love.

With the show’s star Faye Brookes away for Tuesday’s opening night, the role of Elle Woods was taken over by her understudy Amy Ross who shone throughout this modern musical which also starred Gareth Gates.

He was making his MKT return as the snobby Warner Huntingdon III following his triumphant winter season in the theatre’s pantomime Aladdin.

Following the show’s opening number, Omigod You Guys, Warner dumps girlfriend Elle at a candlelit dinner as his parents feel she is ‘too common’ to be the wife of a possible future State senator.

The upshot is that Elle still loves Warner dearly and she hatches a plan to join him at Harvard University where she can keep and eye on him … and hopefully rekindle their love.

Throughout the show, Elle’s Delta Nu college fraternity partners (Margot, Serena, Pilar and Kate) seem to screech their ways through a series of musical numbers, the lyrics often lost until you get use to their strange accents.

Having made her Harvard entrance with a rather unconventional glitzy song and dance routine – with plenty of help from the other law school ‘inmates’ – Elle is finally able to impress Professor Callahan (brilliantly played by Andy Mace) to allow her to take her place.

At Harvard she meets and eventually falls for Emmett Forrest (Iwan Lewis) while Warner takes up with a new hoity-toity type lover to try and rub Elle’s nose in it.

However our blonde heroine meets manicurist Paulette Buonufonte who becomes her confidante. Paulette is played by former Brookside and Dancing on Ice star Jennifer Ellison. She’s the one that most will remember when she managed to gash her own head with an ice skate after she threw her leg backwards in the popular tv show!

Ellison’s voice was probably the best of the bunch but Amy Ross as Elle was superb in all departments and whereas Gates gave a solid enough performance, the role of Warner kept him slightly sidelined for much of the show.

With original songs like Blood in the Water, Ireland and Serious keeping the first act bouncing along nicely, there were some slick dance routine before the Prof allowed Elle to join his top four students in a hopeless murder case involving a fitnes guru.

Having changed her ‘pink’ look for the more traditional solicitor-type suit, Elle impresses over the rest of the ‘chosen’ pupils and she finally solves the courtroom murder mystery thanks to her Delta Nu connection with the female suspect.

And it’s her intuition regarding a gay poolboy that gets the guru off, the court scene being both highly camp and certainly very amusing.

Meanwhile Prof Callahan has lecherous intentions towards Elle and an attempted kiss finally brings things to a head.

Elle drops her business suit looks and changes back to her ‘Pretty in Pink’ image and gets to sing the show’s title song, Legally Blonde, with plenty of emotion.

Ross (Elle) really did win the audience over while Mace was great as the randy professor. As for Lewis as Emmett, he displayed a strong vocal range with plenty of character but it was Ellison and her new boyfriend, UPs delivery man Kyle (Lewis Griffiths) who brought the house down.

Dressed in his khaki delivery man uniform and a pair of very short shorts, his outlandish mannerisms, comical timing and Irish dance style had the audience in raptures.

And while Ellison joined him along with the rest of the cast in a crazed dance sequence, it brought cheers and plenty of belly laughs from the whole auditorium.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the show’s two dogs, Bruiser and Rufus, Elle’s little Jack Russell terrior that was often dressed in pink – surely it was supposed to be a chihuahua? – and Paulette’s cute snub-nosed British bulldog which she rescues from her former drunken slob of a partner.

The two well-trained canines would do almost anything for a tasty titbit neatly concealed in Elle and Paulette’s hand – while the dogs naturally got a huge cheer at the final curtain call.

While Laurence O’Keefe’s original musical score itself is fine (but not particularly memorable), it’s Nell Benjamin’s clever lyrics that lift the show once you’ve learn to listen past the all too often shrills of the female voices.

It’s a very polished touring production, the staging and scenery a little spartan, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable musical having drawn tremendous reviews in the West End where it picked up a host of awards.

It will certainly continue to wow audiences around the country for the next few months but it runs in Milton Keynes until Saturday, August 11 with tickets available from the box office on 08448 717652 or online at www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre

But to make it even more special, why not go along wearing something pink!

Alan Wooding