Peter Ormerod reviews Legally Blonde - The Musical, presented by Leamington and Warwick Musical Society at the Spa Centre in Leamington
Omigod you guys – you’ve only gone and set an extraordinarily high new standard for local musical theatre.
This is a show that explodes onto the stage and rarely lets up. It’s a remarkably ambitious production – but rather than being daunted, the cast reach hitherto unscaled heights. I’ve not seen a better show at the Spa Centre in my 15 years of reviewing.
Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, an apparent airhead obsessed with all things pink, fashionable and cosmetic. Motivated by a desire to win back the boyfiend who’s dumped her, she surprises everyone - including herself - by winning a place to study law with him at Harvard, where she continues to confound expectations and realises that a mixture of hard work and being true to yourself enable great things to happen.
Directed by Stephen Duckham, the show is presented with such energy, colour, wit, intelligence and skill that it’s easy to forget these people are doing this in their spare time, for no money. You could put this cast on any stage in the land and they’d look and sound entirely at home. There’s a sharpness and slickness to everything: the demanding dance routines (watch for the skipping) are executed flawlessly, while the depth of talent among the company is something to behold, with even bit-part performers dazzling.
The luminous Nikki Claire Cross has all the charm and sass you could wish for as Elle, effortlessly commanding the stage and seemingly relishing every moment. Joanne Cheung as the downtrodden yet defiant Paulette is a vision of tottering tragi-comedy. Hannah Hampson brought both brashness and bearing to her role as the wronged Brooke Wyndham. I could easily have filled this review with a list of the cast members, lavishing praise on each of them. They were all that good – even the Dave the chihuahua and Clemy the bulldog. A word too for the musicians, who played with admirable verve and admirable versatility.
If you’re looking for nuanced explorations of gender and sexuality, you won’t find them here (one of the songs - all of which are great, by the way - is called Gay Or European). But that matters not - the world created by the show is so fantastical that it seems wrong to let the concerns of real life intrude. It’s actually superior to the 2001 film – it’s bigger, bolder, funnier, with a self-aware preposterousness that excuses, even celebrates, the shortcomings of the story.
This is irresistible, effervescent stuff. Pound for pound, it may well be the best thing you see all year. How lucky we are to have a production of such sublime quality on our doorstep.
* The show runs until Saturday April 8. Call 334418 to book.