You’ll be hard pushed to find someone who takes Legally Blonde as seriously as I do. For context, I had the dress she wears on the cover of the DVD recreated by an excellent costume interpreter as a graduation present to myself. I can’t think what it is about this over-dressed, over-privileged ridiculous sequin of a human being trying to be taken seriously in an academic world that I find such empathy with…
*stops to sip pink lemonade out of glittery beaker, perched precariously on her PhD literature review*
…but Elle Woods (LL.M.) is very, very dear to my heart.
Perhaps that’s what makes me such a miserable git when it comes to this production. Unlike Tracey Sinclair, whose review pronounced her as definitively not the target audience, I am here to fan girl. So, what sacred sorority laws of Delta Nu have this touring production violated?
- Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed
‘Pink like the folds of your brain’ so sings Janelle Monáe. Where has Elle’s brain gone in Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s adaption? Lucie Jones has a lovely voice but plays Woods as the vacuous airhead that she very much is not. The best one liners are thrown away in what feels like a rush to get to the next song and home before the last tram.
- A Delta Nu will present her best face to the world
I normally make a big deal about mentioning the creatives in reviews, here I have avoided it as frankly, this panto is not something to be proud of. Everything wobbles, the paint is chipped and the costumes look very, very flammable. This is even more frustrating as they suddenly bust out the budget for the curtain call. I get ‘save your best for last’ etc., but there is no point donning your best looks once several of the audience are slipping off to be first in the loo queue.
- Bruiser isn’t a dog – he’s family
I won’t hear a word against Bruisey Williams-Dodd who is so method that he was literally born to play Elle’s Chihuahua Bruiser (no literally, they chose him at 3 weeks old). But please don’t use animals on stage that aren’t trained for it. Nothing says, ‘Girls Night Out!’ like watching a terrified bulldog being dragged on and off stage in what was presented as cute comedy but frankly bordered on cruelty.
- I Delta Nu double swear that the sisterhood comes first
Elle’s nice lawyer-love interest Emmett (David Barrett) gets a lot more stage time in this version. This gives us something to hang his and Elle’s burgeoning romance on via a perfectly ok ballad about how to correctly punctuate her name.
But Legally Blonde is about girl power. Margot didn’t lend Elle her lucky scrunchie to be almost entirely written out of the narrative. Instead of her sisters gathering round to help her into Harvard, we have study buddy Emmett turning her vanity into a desk and threatening to bin her hairdryer. WHY CAN’T YOU HAVE A HAIRDRYER AND GOOD GRADES… THIS IS NOT WHAT WOODS MOVED FROM BEL AIR FOR. I understand that cuts have to be made, but what is truly gained by reducing all of Elle’s pals to bit parts? Initial Harvard nemesis, later champion Enid (Nancy Hill) gets the worst treatment – solely there to make bad lesbian jokes. Because its 2018 and women fancying women is really funny, especially when we do it in camouflage.
Instead of sisterhood, we get a mansplaining number on the need to ‘get a chip on your shoulder’ to succeed. Cos don’t forget, no matter how well Elle did getting into Harvard Law (what like it’s hard?), Emmett did better.
The hole where the female friendships should be is never clearer than when the two* saving graces of this musical come along and make you see what might have been. It’s a moment of delight every time Paulette (Rita Simons) and the Greek chorus of Delta Nu interrupt the otherwise turgid action. Rachel Grundy is a high kicking wonder as sluttysexually liberated cheerleader Serena. Jones is a decent performer but in ‘bend and snap’, Serena stunts it out from under her.
Simons makes me feel the need to do the Camino de Santiago on my knees in penance for all the snobby things I have ever thought about actors who’ve been in soap operas. Forgive me, I blasphemed. She is quite simply in another league to this production, I even forgive her for garrotting that poor bulldog.
*Ok, three – Helen Petrovna leads an absolutely brilliant skipping rope routine as Brooke Wyndham. If this was a real fitness DVD I would buy it and immediately do myself a terrible injury.
- When one is First Runner-up at the Miss Hawaiian tropics contest, you don’t just throw that all away
When life gives you lemons, make pink lemonade and add gin. When life gives you the GIFT that is Legally Blonde, don’t fuck about – give us Legally Blonde. I have been thinking about Dr. Fern Riddell and the #ImmodestWomen campaign she spearheaded by asking that she be referred to be her title. Legally Blonde turns its title into a sad torch song of modesty where Elle thanks Emmett for all his help (SHE DIDN’T NEED HIS HELP. SHE DID… Ok, Ok Frank we get it) but laments that all she’ll ever be is ‘Legally Blonde’. It ironically takes her femininity as something to be ashamed of, and elevates her romance to an achievement equal to (spoiler) achieving valedictorian. Nah… as my other favourite blonde Dolly once sang ‘this dumb blond ain’t nobody’s fool’.
Legally Blonde the Musical is on until 23 June 2018 in Wimbledon, followed by the Palace Theatre in Manchester. Click here for more details.