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14:13 | 29th June 2017

Reviews: Live Shows

Thu 10 Feb, 2011
By Robert Ingham


She simply shines and... an absolute joy to watch

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Be true to yourself. Be Legally Blonde

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Legally Blonde is no stranger to the West End, having opened in January last year but, after a year of the rather fabulous Sheridan Smith performing the lead in this effervescent musical, the tiara has been passed to Susan McFadden, who won the part of Sandy in ITV’s “Grease Is The Word”, the nationwide search for the lead roles in Grease.

Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM motion picture of the same name, it tells the story of Elle Woods, a blonde belle who thinks that matching the right outfit with the right shoes is the highest form of intelligence and who thinks that her boyfriend, Warner, will propose to her when they graduate from college. Elle, her Chihuahua and the other sorority girls couldn’t be more wrong. He promptly dumps her as she’s not “serious enough”, running off to Harvard to pursue a degree in law.

Yet Elle is a feisty number and follows him to university to win him back.

As the curtains rise, the music starts and the girls from Delta Nu sing “OMiGod You Guys”, an incredibly catchy song that sets the tone of the show. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s switch-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-the ride stuff. The duet between Elle and Warner, where she sings of marriage as he sings of break-up is extremely clever and stands out in the first act. Unfortunately, there is a sense of disappointment. “Blood In The Water” desperately wants to be a “Mack The Knife” and for those who saw Sheridan breathe life into the juicy lead, you can see that the Director wanted to keep the bawdiness and the farcicality that Sheridan brought, but it feels that Susan is a carbon copy with the sharp edges rounded off. However, as the act plays out, Susan comes into her own and she finally settles into the role. The scene where she applies for Harvard, successfully winning a place, is an absolute stand out and her energy and fervour spills out, infecting everyone. She simply shines and from this moment on, it’s an absolute joy to watch, even if the audience are left expecting more when the interval comes.

And then the second act begins. This is when Legally Blonde becomes a winner. The opener “Whipped Into Shape” is the show’s show-stopper. The cast led by Brooke (an incredible Tamara Wall), who has made her fortune in keep fit videos but in jail awaiting trial for allegedly murdering her husband, skip using ropes for about 5 minutes. They bounce around, hitting every note without getting out of breathe. It’s exhausting but amazing to watch. The rest of the show just goes from strength to strength – the music is stronger, the entire cast more impressive, the writing hits its stride and has the audience on their feet at the end.

Denise Van Outen plays Paulette, owner of the beauty salon where Elle goes. Denise, as we all know, has got some lungs on her and she does a fantastic job of making the role her own, bringing empathy and pathos to the character, whilst keeping the comedy high.

Plaudits must go to Susan. This is one major part to take on as she sings in most of the numbers. It is an enormously demanding role, physically and vocally. I think her career as a West End star is now secure as this will make a lot of people’s heads turn, for all the right reasons.

An absolute must-see for anyone who wants to forget the February chills and be transported to a sugary, pink and unforgettable world that just wants to be liked – showing that whilst blondes really do have more fun, they can also move an audience in ways you don’t expect.

Legally Blonde is on now at the Savoy Theatre, London.

 

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