Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Theatre Review: Legally Blonde @ the Savoy Theatre

Ohmigod, ohmigod, you guys! So, I finally saw it. 

Legally Blonde: ohmigod, it's so good.

From the start, when the sorority girls open the show with their first number, I was totally hooked. Lots has already been written about how funny, silly and sassy this new show is. Here's my tuppence-worth...

First up, I still haven't seen Hairspray, so I can't really comment on this choreography and direction (by the same Jerry Mitchell) being any better, or the same. I can say that I loved it.

Second, I think last night was perhaps the second-ish time in my life I've ever given a standing ovation. (I'm British. We don't really do it over here.) I might've been way back in row T (freebie marketing seats, thankyouverymuch) but when Sheridan Smith came to take her bow, I simply felt the overwhelming, non-British need to stand up. To show her how impressed I was with the work she'd put into my evening. 

I really think the main thing about the whole show is Sheridan Smith. 
She's the clever cog who stops Legally Blonde The Musical being too saccharine sweet. Her wit and, er, spunkiness (ick word, but it's the best I can do) shine through all the already shimmery, pink, shiny parts of the show, and somehow end up giving the whole musical a kind of interesting, deeper, classy gloss finish. In almost any other actresses' hands, I really think Legally Blonde just could've been too, too much.  

I don't know if it's just me, but having found out so much of SS's "backstory" (the idea that she's worked so hard for the part, that she acknowledged that she is: "honestly the laziest person and get a stitch walking to the car, so this is quite a big ask for me (from SOLT). It’s great to have something to work towards and challenge yourself", that, as Peter Davison points out in the reelkandi video of the Opening Gala, in need of regular reassurance that she is "good enough"), I found it almost impossible not to root for Elle / Sheridan. 

Quirky, cartoony, kooky as she is, SS captured my attention throughout. She's odd looking; too tomboyish even in a power LPD (little pink dress) and heels to ever look like a proper, beautiful, sexy, leading lady. Underneath all her acting it up as the uber-Malibu-blonde Elle, there's somehow still a whole heap of Smithy just millimeters underneath the surface. And yet, somehow, it all really works.

In fact, I'd like to see the show again soon, so I can watch more of the other stuff going on on stage, the choreography, the chorus members, the set, rather than getting caught up with watching SS and her beautiful but weird wigs. It's hard to take your eyes off her.

Aside from our heroine, how's the rest? Well, Duncan-James-from-Blue does just fine, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. (I hope.) Peter Davison is OK as Professor Callahan (LK wanted someone nastier, but she's a Doctor Who fan, so...), and as I predicted, Jill Ha'pney is totally brilliant as Paulette.

It's funny how, when people have been in EastEnders, Chicago and the like (Byker Grove, anyone?), the snobbery quickly descends. But I think Jill Halfpenny is an actual properly brilliant musicals actress. Big voice, great mover, utterly believable, professional to a pin-prick, perfect in every way on stage. I hope she likes what she does, and sods the rest of them.

And the songs. The SONGS!  There's a hilarious song called "Gay or European" which nearly induced Mamma-Mia-style stare-at-the-floor-til-they-stop hysterical palpitations from yours truly. There's a few Wicked-style power-ballads, all messed up with really funny bitchiness from the self-proclaimed Greek Chorus. There's "Whipped Into Shape", which, as I may have mentioned elsewhere, features simultaneous skipping and singing. Skipping AND Singing! There's an early near-romantic near-duet ("Serious") which made me think of a Rogers-Hammerstein-Carousel duet (memories from the same theatre, perhaps), before it's all turned, hilariously, on its head. Callahan's "Blood in the Water" made me think of "Why Can't the English" from Lerner and Lowe's My Fair Lady. 

Put it this way, there's some class behind the songs, both the lyrics and the tunes. Well done Mr O'Keefe and Ms Benjamin. (Anyone know what else these two are working on??)

Anyway, I'll probably think of more things I love about it, but that'll do for now. I'm pleased to have a new obsession. I just need to work out exactly where it fits in the whole my Top 10 Stage Musicals blog post that I've been writing for about eight months. Terrible. I should perhaps get back to that.

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