Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Legally Blonde: Press reviews

Sheridan Smith and Duncan James

A selection of what theatre critics thought of the West end show of Legally blonde, starring Sheridan Smith and Duncan James.

The show, based on the Reese Witherspoon smash hit movie, originally premiered on Broadway.

The production is currently showing at London's Savoy Theatre.


What redeems this flamboyantly preposterous show — though why must a Broadway musical be anything else? — is that its tongue stays permanently in its cheek.

Sheridan Smith as Elle
Sheridan Smith is a well known face on British tv
All along you can see where Jerry Mitchell's production is going, but, really, who cares? Certainly not the young women near me. They greeted the performers, especially a chirpy but mischievous Smith, as best friends. They cheered, whistled and made my cavils seem precious. Let's accept the irritating subplot, in which Elle's hairdresser finds love in the form of a delivery man in shorts.

Let's overlook some forgettable tunes and welcome dance that embraces everything from skipping with ropes to spoof Riverdance. Let's relish the support both of a fake-Greek chorus dressed as cheerleaders and of two cute, unnaturally obedient dogs. Let's agree that Legally Blonde is, well, fun.


I really tried to hate this show, but resistance is futile. It's going to be a huge hit and if you're a chap, your wife or girlfriend is almost certain to drag you along. You might as well give in gracefully now.

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell keeps it all light, fast, fun and frothy, and there are some terrific dance routines, not least when Elle presents herself to the Harvard professors with a full supporting company of cheer-leaders.

Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's score is efficient rather than inspired, with no one number that brings the house down and lingers in the memory, though there are some enjoyable shafts of wit in the lyrics.

The chief glory of the show is Sheridan Smith as Elle, blessed with vitality, warmth, great comic timing and sudden moments of touching vulnerability. She is infinitely more likeable than Reese Witherspoon in the film.


Even allowing for the goofiness of the story, there are things that stick in the craw.

Duncan James as 'Warner Huntington III'
Duncan James used to be in the boyband Blue
Although the score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin improves as it goes along, it begins with a screeching evocation of sorority life that made me think back wistfully to the seductive choric opening of a 60s show like Bye Bye Birdie.

Sheridan Smith as Elle is also far more vivacious than Reese Witherspoon. Smith is perky, trim, and sings and dances excellently.

But her true star quality lies in her sense of mischief, which I first noticed when she was a teenager appearing with the National Youth Music Theatre.


I had thought snootily that the stage show of Legally Blonde might put the "ugh" in "euuuugh!" But omigod was I like totally blown away. It may not be quite as good as Hairspray (it lacks that show's lovely, double-bluffing libertarian dimension), but it's ridiculously enjoyable from start to finish and camp peroxide-perfection in terms of its showbiz roots.

Who cares if this piece - which is a huge improvement, technically and humanly, on the movie - was a comparative flop on Broadway? Since when has Broadway been an even semi-reliable arbiter of taste?

The lyrics are unflaggingly funny in that fast take-it-or-leave manner that made the American tuner of The Full Monty such a pleasure.

The score has, where appropriate, brassiness, bite, joie de vivre, sheer cheek, and even the odd strain of sadness.
In its verve and variety, the choreography demonstrates far more snap than, well, Elle's handbag which is usually so full of Chihuahua that the clasps are tragically redundant.


The plot is pap, the musical unmemorable, the dancing often hefty except for one routine with skipping ropes.

Alex Gaumond as Emmett Forrest and Sheridan Smith as Elle Wood
Reese Witherspoon starred in the original movie
Dingbat blonde Elle (Sheridan Smith) is heartbroken when her boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Duncan James) is accepted by Harvard to read law.

Elle duly gets herself accepted at Harvard, too, by doing a cheerleader routine. Miss Smith's singing voice is not strong but she brings a likeable cheekiness to the part.

A crueller critic might wonder if she is glamorous enough for the role.


Frothy and intoxicating, Legally Blonde has burst into the West End like a fizzing bottle of pink champagne. This musical will not disappoint fans of the movie - it's a faithful, funny and feel-good adaptation.

Smith is hugely appealing in the lead role, full of comic energy with a strong clear singing voice. The catchy songs and slick choreography dominate the production, which has comparatively little dialogue. The most tongue-in-cheek numbers work best - particular stand-outs are Omigod You Guys and There! Right There!, which features a courtroom chorus of "Gay or European?".

Duncan James, formerly of boyband Blue, is well cast as self-absorbed, self-important Warner (his duet with Smith, Serious, is especially funny) while Alex Gaumond has a sweet, low-key charm as Elle's later love interest, Emmett.

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SINA 'Blonde' bombshell: London critics praise musical - 12 hrs ago
Times Online Legally Blonde hits the stage - 24 hrs ago
The Sun Caught Live: Legally Blonde - 25 hrs ago
Telegraph Legally Blonde: The Musical - a frothy delight - 27 hrs ago
The Independent First Night: Legally Blonde, Savoy Theatre, London - 39 hrs ago

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