Review: Legally Blonde dazzles on stage in Stratford

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Legally Blonde: The Musical, presented by Stratford Musical Theatre Company at Stratford Play House

The cast of Legally Blonde: The Musical (photo: David Fawbert Photography)
The cast of Legally Blonde: The Musical (photo: David Fawbert Photography)

Omigod you guys! My face ached from smiling throughout this wonderful, beautiful, boisterous musical. Legally Blonde, performed with immaculate timing, warmth and sheer gutsy talent by Stratford Musical Theatre Company was onstage for just a few nights, but one wishes it had a full West End run. It deserves it.

Legally Blonde: The Musical took a while to woo the public and the critics back in 2007, though the film had been a hit in 2001. But it gradually built up steam and is now one of the most successful musicals to hit the mainstream stages. It tells the story of Elle Woods (Vanessa Gravestock), who somehow gets into Harvard Law School while seemingly more interested in fashion than in studying. Her reasoning is to win back the love of Warner Huntington III (Casey McKernan), who has dumped her for a more ‘serious’ girlfriend, Vivienne Kensington (Emily Collins).

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When she gets there, she finds herself out of her comfort zone. The other high-flying students laugh at her for her pink attire and her cute little dog. Her teacher, Professor Callahan (Christopher Dobson), a vicious winner-takes-all lawyer, publicly shames her. But she finds friends in beautician Paulette Buonufonte (Katie Merrygold) and another tutor, Emmett Forrest (Ian Meikle). So she knuckles down, and soon wins a coveted internship. Elle is on her way!

Elle’s story is a fairytale, laced with a heady dose of Girl Power. There is nothing they cannot do with the right motivation, lots of friends and a good dress sense. But there is depth beneath the glamour. Elle is no bimbo. She has a knack of seeing through to the truth of an argument and a sense of honour, which gives an edge in court when, against the odds, she defends high profile fitness guru Brooke Wyndham (Anya Brown) from a murder charge. Her case rests on Elle’s knowledge of hair styles. But it almost goes wrong for her when, at the height of her success, Callahan tries to assault her. Still, love wins through in the end. Her tutor Emmett has fallen for her, and gradually she realises that this is the real thing. In a nice twist she proposes to him at the end. And so they live happily ever after.

It is this fairytale quality which gives Legally Blonde the structure on which to hang the amazing dance routines, the huge cast and the catchy, punchy songs. Bright it might be, but breezy it isn’t. Every step, jump, twirl, bounce, and pirouette are combined to perfection. Choreographer Julie Bedlow-Howard and director Georgie Wood have brought a touch of magic to the big cast of mostly young performers. The choruses, the costumes, the live music from a spot-on band, led by James Suckling, all work together without a hitch. And Vanessa Gravestock is a true star who has found her perfect role.

Legally Blonde may seem like a fantasy, but it is in fact based on a true story. The packed house loved every second of it.

Omigod you guys, this was a joy to behold.

Legally Blonde ran from May 4 to 7 May. Visit stratfordplay.co.uk for details of future productions at the venue.