It’s inspiring when women want to be more than a pretty face, which is the popular appeal of Legally Blonde. Based on the 2001 movie, Lucy Moss has revamped the story for today’s audience, while still keeping the nostalgia cues alive for those who love the original.
The plot is simple: boy ditches girl because she’s not clever enough for him and his glittering Harvard Law School career. Girl decides to prove him wrong and turns her fun, party life around securing a place at Harvard where the plan is to win back the douche-bag by proving she’s not an air-head, but a totally ass-busting-legal-whizz. For me, that’s the first (of many) yawning stereotypes and a source of friction, but I tried to set my morals aside and get into the fizzy, fun time.
This is a big stage production and the addiction to pink will likely leave you with pink-eye for the rest of the night, or an unhealthy obsession with all things sparkly. But the point is: we should be true to ourselves, whatever colour we want to be. Which speaks to some of the deeper issues the show tries to tackle. It’s all-inclusive cast of every shape, size, colour and persuasion displays a desire to go beyond traditional ideals of beauty.
Elle Woods (Courtney Bowman) is of mixed-race heritage with a white privilege attitude and a bottle-blonde hairdo. Her posse of girlfriends act like a hen party on acid and pop up at every stage she needs support. I would love to say it’s about girl power, but their encouragement mainly revolved around ensuring she was wearing the right thing. This was confusing because the message seemed to be about how we shouldn’t judge on appearances, but then we should judge on appearances.
However, while the show caused me much friction in its conflicting messages, there were some magical moments. The hairdresser, Paulette (Nadine Higgin), was an absolute joy to behold. She has a big voice, a big presence and a small storyline with heart. You long for her to win her man, and even if she’s a side dish to the main, she’s a show stealer. I loved this woman and found myself wondering how the show would be if she’d been cast as Elle.
The songs are punchy and frequent, but not as memorable as you would hope. The singing doesn’t quite hit the top-notch West End quality audiences would expect, but Ellen Kane’s choreography compensates for some of the overly screeched scores. The stage is minimalistic but acts as a reasonable backdrop for the audience to use their imagination. Of course, the major draw is the wonderful venue itself and Regent’s Park does open air theatre very well indeed.
Overall, Legally Blonde is a light, fun, frolic into the world of a young girl trying to better herself with a message you should be true to yourself. Even if at times those messages seem to get confused, the meaning is there and if you don’t take the show too seriously, you’ll probably have a good time.
Playing until 2nd July, https://openairtheatre.com/
Reviewer: Samantha Collett
Reviewed: 25th May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★