The first time a friend asked if I wanted to watch the movie Legally Blonde, I think I shot her a look akin to being asked do I want a free lobotomy. I’ve never been wholly cynical of romantic comedies but a tale of a Malibu IT girl attending Harvard Law to win back her boyfriend sounded painful. However I relented and, without checking in my masculinity too early in this review, I loved it. It was warm, funny and entertaining. However, when I heard the Hollywood smash had been turned into a theatre musical, my skepticism returned. The idea of Elle Woods and her designer Chihuahua on stage sound more painful than the film. Shoehorning musical numbers into a movie script just didn’t make sense to me. Hairspray had the songs; Legally Blonde just had wit and a Wilson brother. However, once again I relented and once again I admit I was wrong.
The movie script is perfectly dissected for stage. Act one sees dizzy Elle pretty in pink and chasing her love Warner to Harvard Law whilst act two sees our IT girl turn master of law. It’s a story arc not too dissimilar to other hit musicals really and I think that’s why it works. We have a loveable lead, an entertaining supporting cast, a journey she has to take, a sad realisation, a deserved retribution and an inevitable triumph. It’s all there and it’s delivered brilliantly. The whole cast are excellent. Despite the celebrities on show, the winner in all this is Faye Brooks in the title role. She delivers 16 of 18 songs in the show and delivers every line or body movement with wit, charm and class. The rest of the cast – including pop idol Gareth Gates and TV actress Jennifer Ellison – are no slouches though and each deliver an impressive and important part of this play.
In my eyes, a musical’s score is usually defined by the tracks that transcend the stage. I’ve not seen the likes of Grease or Hairspray onstage but could already name tunes from each. For the first time, I couldn’t do that and I genuinely believed it would hinder my enjoyment. However, once again I was wrong (damn you Elle Woods). There may be no standout ‘Summer Nights’ moment in Legally Blonde but each song is perfectly placed. The lyrics are full of wit as sharp as a lawyer’s suit and are thoroughly entertaining. I don’t think I’ll be singing songs like ‘Gay or European’ any time soon but I imagine the soundtrack is much loved offstage as well as on by its fans.
In essence, Legally Blonde: The Musical is a triumph in every way a musical can be. The story lends itself perfectly, the songs are good, the cast is excellent and the audience genuinely loves it. The ooo’s and aaa’s emanating from York Opera House were greater than I’ve seen for established musical productions while the female love for the UPS guy may topple that for the Phantom or Danny Zuko. All in all, Legally Blonde is brilliant and probably one of the best musicals I’ve seen…and that revelation finally sees my masculinity fly out the door. Thank you and good night.