Review: Legally Blonde – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Ok, so it has more neon pink that Grease, more hair references than Hairspray and more camp than La Cage aux Folles but, try as you might, it’s hard not be won over by the sheer feel-good factor of Legally Blonde.

Without ever having seen the original film it is hard to make comparison as to how the two compare but perhaps that’s a bonus – and as a stage musical, the show stands on its own two, stiletto clad, feet.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, this is traditional Rom-Com fare, Posh vain boy dumps blonde girlfriend for rich girl with prospects. Only there’s a twist, determined to win back her man blonde fashionista Elle Woods dumps Vogue magazine in favour of law books and enrols at Harvard Law School. It seems a doomed idea, but behind the ditzy exterior lies a sharp brain and Elle soon discovers that she can do so much better than chase her ex.

Tongue firmly in cheek, Legally Blonde makes no bones that the story, while having a laudable core message about self-worth, is as thin as one of Elle’s favoured magazines. It does however play the story with total conviction and energy that it’s impossible not to be swept along by the exuberance.

There’s a real spark of fun running through the entire ensemble with performances that never put a foot out of place, knowing just how much to send up the characters without losing that sense of believability, however absurd.

There’s a surprisingly dark and sinister performance from Les Dennis as crack shot lawyer turned Professor Callahan and a charming and vocally impressive positive influence Emmett from Iwan Lewis.

As love rat Warner, Ray Quinn exudes a greasy charm but does struggle somewhat with the vocal range of the character.

It is perhaps fitting though that the standout performances really belong to the ladies. Niki Evan’s vocal powerhouse Paulette soars with her rendition of ‘Ireland’, combining musical flare with real emotional depth.

The night of course really belongs to Elle herself and Faye Brookes doesn’t disappoint. Strong vocals, a sense of vulnerability mixed with an inner steel and perfect timing with witty one-liners, Brookes’ charm and charisma make it impossible not to warm to her.

Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s songs are unlikely to be ones you will find yourself humming in days to come, but they serve their purpose to provide the emotional drive to the show, combining up tempo dance numbers against more plaintive ballads. Amidst all the froth though listen carefully; those lyrics contain more bite than may initially appear.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography make much of the high-octane, comic potential and even manages to include a lampoon of Riverdance.

Legally Blonde is unlikely ever to find itself on the reading list for Harvard Law students but for two and a half hours of unashamedly feel-good fun, it’s certainly one to let your hair down to.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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