Sheridan Smith, Alex Gaumond, Duncan James, Jill Halfpenny, Peter Davison
Omigod You Guys. Here it is, dripping in pink glitter and trailing a little yappy dog at its heels.
Legally Blonde – the Musical arrives in London with a fixed, determined grin on its face and a secret stash of caffeine pills.
The 2001 film on which the show is based was pure cinematic candy floss. Reese Witherspoon played Elle Woods, a shiny sorority girl who enrolled in Harvard Law School in order to win back her boyfriend.
Despite having a story as a thin as a piece of dental tape, the movie was adapted for the Broadway stage with Laura Bell Bundy taking the lead, and though it didnt quite win over the critics it was popular enough for a reality TV show to follow the search for someone to replace Bundy in the role when she relinquished her pink kitten heels.
If ever an actress were up to task of taking this material and making it work in front of a London audience, its Sheridan Smith. Though still widely known as being the girl from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, her stage work is starting to eclipse that dubious privilege. She approaches the role with just the right mix of wit, charm and knowing perkiness. She plays it like she means it, and though she occasionally allows a sliver of irony to slide into proceedings, its never enough to undermine things.
The story remains faithful to the films featherweight plot. Elles ambitious Kennedy-wannabe boyfriend, Warner (played by Duncan James from boyband Blue), dumps her. Hurt by his claim that shes simply not serious enough for him, she decides to prove him wrong. She applies to Harvard and with unfathomable ease wins a place at Law School studying under the supposedly shark-like Professor Callahan (Peter Davison).
Then – horror of horrors – she discovers that Warner has a new girlfriend, who inevitably is a hardnosed, driven type more than happy to see Elle humiliate herself. Mind you it doesnt actually occur to Elle to take the cellophane of her legal text books until her fellow student Emmett (Alex Gaumond) suggests it to her. Apart from Emmett the only other friend she makes is Paulette, a hairdresser (played perhaps too understatedly by Jill Halfpenny) with a thing about Irish guys.
Its obvious from the start that Emmett is the one for her but theres the whole hoopla of a murder trial to go through before we get there. Before that the show rather muddies its own message about the importance of not judging others by what they look like by having Elle introduce Emmett to the wonders of suit shopping and by having her win the trial by knowing a lot about perm maintenance.
Its tempting to pick at these little inconsistencies (especially as the programme is packed with feminist quotations from the likes of Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Roosevelt) and at the fact that the writers dont seem sure of quite how smart they want Elle to be, but one suspects few girls are going to be taking life lessons from this show, theyre just going to be enjoying the sheer energy of the production.
Jerry Mitchells production is, to its credit, well-paced but even that cant quite compensate for the fact that the sets seem to have been knocked up by the guy from Changing Rooms and that few of the songs are in any way memorable (with the exception of the opening track which burrows its way into your head, sets up home and stays there for days like some kind of pink velour-clad brain parasite).
The cast at least seem to be enjoying themselves and this enthusiasm transmits itself to the audience. Theres a lot of whooping and hooting, especially when the hot UPS guy puts in an appearance and there seems to be an understanding that while this isnt the most accomplished musical in the world, it is fun and endearing in its own way.