18 September 2010

Legally Blonde (the musical) is OK, but only OK

I don't do musicals. Which is a little odds as I do opera and theatre, I love all sorts of music and many years ago I regularly listened to a Radio 2 series on musicals that may have been presented by Ian Carmichael.

Some good reviews for Legally Blonde combined with the presence of Sheridan Smith (she's still Janet from Two Pints for me) and a fondness for the original film tempted me to give musicals a try.

I was glad to have an excuse to visit the Savoy Theatre as it is rich with period charm, even if some of it had to be remade following a fire in 1990. However, the period charm is a double-edged sword and with the beauty comes drab and uncomfortable seats, very few facilities (to prove this point I failed to get a beer before or during the performance) and deadening acoustics that would make Black Sabbath difficult to hear.

At least a top-price ticket (£60) got a seat at the front of the Dress Circle where the sound could travel easily and the view was perfect.

I was expecting a play with songs (which just goes to show how little I know musicals) but Legally Blonde is sung throughout which means paying attention all the time or losing the plot. And, yes, there is a plot.

In fact the story bounces along quite nicely accompanied by lots of exuberance, large smiles, sexy outfits, vigorous movements, acting that playfully toys with over acting, cameo roles for dogs, and some decent songs.

It's a feel-good show that does everything in its power to ensure that the feel-good promise is delivered and you would have to be pretty determined not to enjoy yourself to come out of the show without a smile on your face.

This much feel-goodness requires a fairly large and very active cast and while there are several key supporting roles the two that stood out for me were Elle's hairdresser friend, Paulette, and the defendant in her first case, Brooke Wyndham. Both enter the show with strong solo numbers that draw deserved applause from the audience. It's disappointing that after such strong starts they disappear in to the background.

My highlight of the show was Brooke's song and dance routine in the prison. Helping this along was a stark set with a simple image of large oppressive bars.

But, once the artificial high has died down, the show's promise reveals itself to be modest with no great songs (a day later I can remember none of the tunes), no great performances (sorry, Sheridan) and no great drama either.

Legally Blonde is still a fine night out but it does not do enough to make me want to do it again.

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