O's bro and sis-in-law were in town which was the spur needed to go to the Savoy to see LEGALLY BLONDE, the latest show that is slowly turning the West End into a living version of a dvd shelf in your average HMV.On arrival it soon became clear that the show is now an event - there were quite a few groups of pink-stetsoned, balloon-trailing larger-sized women out on a jolly. Needless to say, if it moved it got a round of wild applause.
Through careful maneuvering I have managed not to see the original film so I was unfamiliar with the actual plot though of course these sausage-in-a-greenhouse tales write themselves.
Like the similar-themed SISTER ACT it goes like this
- take your sassy, noisy heroine - here uber-girly Elle Woods
- waste no time setting up your situ - dumped by posh boyfriend for better class girl
- then re-locate - Elle gets into Harvard Law School after a few nights cramming. Yes.
- triumph in new situ - Elle wins a court case on her knowledge of hair care
- cop off with quiet guy - the show ends with Elle loved up with Emmett from her class
Again like SISTER ACT, it is in such a rush to keep moving on, on, on - just in case the film-loving audience will riot in the theatre because they can't fast-forward the action - that it's like you are watching a non-ending trailer. Just once - once - I wanted it to stop and just be... give us a minute to connect, to feel some empathy.
Ah you say, but Elle is just a cartoon-y dumb blonde, but compare - for a very obvious reason - Audrey in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS who through the clever placement of "Somewhere That's Green" in the middle of the first act gives you a moment to stop and feel real empathy for the character. Elle is given no solo number in the first act, no point of genuine connection.
Mind you, it helps when you have a song like "...Green". In all the reviews I have read variations on "The score is not too memorable but..." But? BUT?? It's a musical damnit - the score should be the most important element of the show.
Owen thought all the songs sounded like rejects from WICKED and I can agree with that - they all sound like pastiche Broadway songs and the arrival late-on of a superfluous but original patter-song "There! Right There" aka the "Gay or European" song sadly only shows the opportunities lost. Even more so as this is followed up with the show's title song which gives us the stupidest use of a title in a song ever.
What makes the show a success however is the game performances of the cast. Peter Davison was quite effective as the nasty Law lecturer but Richard Fleeshman almost seemed to fade from the stage as you watched him. However Alex Gaumond as Emmett has an interesting quality on stage, his timing was a bit slow, a bit Schwimmer-esque so he always seemed a bit out-of-step with the rhythm of the scenes which I guess helped the character.
I have to say the biggest surprise of the show was the delightful supporting performance from Jill Halfpenny as that most tiresome of devices the loved-and-lost best friend. She had a great American accent and invested this sadsack part with immense charm - her eventual hooking up with Chris Ellis-Stanton's studly UPS man was sweetly done.
But of course the show is a vehicle for Elle and I suspect the real reason for the show's SRO status is down to Sheridan Smith.She deserved her standing ovation - of course - at the curtain for making the show as enjoyable as it was although she ultimately wasn't doing anything she hadn't done a few years back in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.
However she has developed into that rare thing - a gifted comedy performer who is also an excellent musical actress and an undeniable theatre star. It's 12 years ago since I first saw her as Red Riding Hood in the Donmar revival of INTO THE WOODS and it's great that she has continued to return to the theatre despite her success in television.
I just wish the show had given us something other than a relentless diet of e-numbers. Too much pink icing can lead to theatrical diabetes.