Legally Blonde review at Curve, Leicester – ‘serviceable but perky’
Oh my God but Legally Blonde is an odd show. Of all the screen-to-stage musicals to have an on-going life one would probably not have picked this stage adaptation of the 2001 Reese Witherspoon film. It tells the story of Elle Woods, the Malibu ditz who pursues her preppie ex-boyfriend to Harvard law school and instead ends up finding self-worth and self-fulfilment (and a better boyfriend – because heaven forfend she should be without a man at the end).
But it remains incredibly popular despite its muddied feminism – there was a recent, well-received fringe version at Upstairs at the Gatehouse – and it’s possible to see why. It’s a goofy and amiable show that’s able to laugh at itself, though this new production at Leicester’s Curve is not on the same level as the original London staging starring Sheridan Smith. It helps that the score is both ear-wormy and knowing – there are flashes of Curtis Sittinfeld wit in there as well as jokes about Thomas Hobbes, even if there are also moments where it begins to feel alarmingly like Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things – the Musical.
Nikolai Foster’s production is a gets-the-job-done effort playing out on a suitably garish, neon pink box-set, and though it’s not the slickest of productions and rather vocally varied, it’s perky enough and boasts warm and endearing performances from The X Factor’s Lucie Jones as Elle and Jon Robyns as Emmett, the man who loves her just the way she is – you end up rooting for them despite everything.
Legally Blonde is a celebratory, female-led show and Elle wins the day (through superior knowledge of haircare rather than anything resembling actual lawyering, obviously) and while it’s insubstantial as a kitten’s sneeze, it’s not without its pleasures.