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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Savoy


  Sheridan Smith and company/ Ph: Ellie Kurttz

Is it too much to ask the composer of a new musical these days that he sends audiences home with a few memorable tunes swirling around their heads? What, I want to know, is wrong with sweetening a score with something resembling a melody rather than just an insistent, tuneless beat? Are today’s teenage theatergoers at whom most contemporary musicals seem aimed (think Wicked and Hairspray) incapable of appreciating a catchy tune?
I kept asking myself these questions during Legally Blonde, an otherwise energetic, thoroughly enjoyable, albeit brainless, Broadway import fashioned from the 2001 film in which its star, Reece Witherspoon, enjoyed her finest hour.
Basically aimed at teenage girls, its incredibly silly plot follows the determined antics of Elle Woods, a blond college bimbo, who, after being dumped by her current boyfriend for not being serious enough, follows him to Harvard Law School, where, against all odds, she proves herself a more capable student than any of her colleagues.
As in the film, the musical revolves almost entirely around perky Elle Woods, which places quite a responsibility on Sheridan Smith, the actress playing her.
The good news is that Ms. Smith is up to the challenge and turns in a high-octane, immensely appealing performance that goes some distance in camouflaging the inanities of the storyline.
Indeed, the production, very slickly directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, is infectiously engaging and far more entertaining than the material has a right to be.
David Rockwell’s colorful sets move on and off and up and down with the same exhilarating pace invested in the proceedings by the hard-working cast, maintaining a fluidity of movement throughout that is almost cinematic in effect.
The exuberance of the show had a full house stomping and cheering every number, rewarding the cast, which included hunky Duncan James as the boy Elle follows to Harvard, and Alex Gaumond as the guy she finally gets, with a standing ovation.
It says a great deal for the production’s professional clout that, despite Laurence O’Keefe’s indifferent music (at least the lyrics by Nell Benjamin are well-turned), Legally Blonde is much better than I imagined and would appear to have all the ingredients of a massive hit.
But oh, for just one memorable tune!


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