It was a Tuesday night treat. A soirée of stirring songs and comical choruses. An evening of preppy pleasure!
Camp Chihuahuas, bodacious bends and sassy snaps… it was, of course, a night at the theatre. A night of Legally Blonde.
The whole Tuesday treat itself came about when my dear journalist-editor friend from university and I were reminiscing about uni life and the time we went to the West End together to see Wicked. The experience was, as the youth would say, wicked! (Just as an aside, I learnt last night that I was the one responsible for introducing my friend to the magic of musicals..! Pride doesn’t cover it!!)
Anyway, during our reminiscing we decided to relive (or even revive) our former days as students and went ahead to book tickets for Legally Blonde at the Savoy.
The ticket was booked through lastminute.com, cost £25 and included an evening meal at the nearby Covent Garden Grill.
The meal I had (steak burger) was truly scrumptious however I am not concerned with writing a food criticism – my reason for writing is to not so much review but appraise the musical.
After polishing off our food we strolled towards the Strand, stopping at a nearby newsagent’s to purchase the obligatory theatre sweet treats! Walking along the Strand we were chatting, as friends do, discussing mutual friends, our plans for the week, our work woes… But in a flash the two of us became momentarily mute.
We were surrounded by the busyness of London, but amongst the buzz we could see the shining lights of London’s West End and amidst the glow was a pink and white Legally Blonde sign.
We were in theatreville and, like rabbits in headlights, we were stunned.
It’s funny, no matter how many times I go to the theatre in London; I’ll never fail to fall so hopelessly and suddenly under its spell.
Racing across the road, we were slowly but surely descending upon our destination.
The Savoy Theatre.
I had forgotten (rather stupidly) that the Savoy Theatre was directly connected to the sensational Savoy Hotel.
Proceeding along the dramatic driveway with the imposing hotel ahead was really rather daunting and I was worried I was looking rather out of place but I held my head up high and was revelling in the luxury of my environs.
Once we’d sufficiently soaked in our surroundings we approached the box office to collect our tickets.
Having bought the tickets at a terrific price through lastminute.com we weren’t expecting great seats (the website even warned us of obscured vision at times) and true to word we were placed in the Grand Circle, right up the top, far from the stage, in row G.
Making our way to the entrance to the Grand Circle, I removed my jacket in order to flash my chic chemise thinking it might make me look more the part of a theatre goer. I would like to think that the usher took note of my rather distinguished shirt because upon showing her our tickets she hastily produced a plan of the theatre, scribbled what looked like an algebra equation on our tickets and sent us back to the box office where the entrance to the Dress Circle was.
She had upgraded us and we were now in what I can only say were the best seats of the house: we were high enough to see the whole stage, but not too high that we were unable to see the actors’ expressions. Not too low that we were straining our necks to see, not too close that the orchestra was overpowering the lilting lyrics of the big numbers. We were positioned right in the centre of the row which, as I pointed out, would be a most unfortunate place to be seated if one was in desperate need of the toilet in the middle of the performance, but the optimum position for observing and enjoying the musical.
Once sat at our seats, we continued to chatter away like two old women (no offence, old women!) until our conversation was cut short by a loud American voice telling one and all that all BlackBerries should be switched off (along with other cell phones and iPhones). Elle Woods would not be impressed if a ringtone stole her thunder… We were told!
Hastily checking that my phone was off (despite having turned it off before arriving at our seats) I adjusted my position in my seat for optimum comfort and bam! The luring lights were flashing, the orchestra were hitting the notes, the curtain was rising: the show was starting!
I could go into detail now about every single musical number and detail what happened in each scene, however that would be very tedious and would ruin it for some people.
What I will say is that I knew the songs before seeing the musical, but I’d already seen the Reese Witherspoon film so I had a pretty good idea of the plot and indeed, I wasn’t massively surprised ( though a few numbers caught me out and were different to the recordings I had).
The songs I thought I’d love, I did indeed love… So Much Better, Take It Like a Man, Legally Blonde, Find My Way. I enjoyed Paulette’s numbers much more than I’d expected and I’ve deduced that (for me at least) it’s necessary to see her songs, not just listen to them, whereas some of the others I just loved to listen to on my iPod.
Elle’s friends (Margot, Serena and Pilar) and her Delta Nu sisters were an excellent asset to the musical. I hadn’t realized before that they would appear as a kind of Greek Chorus. They added light relief when necessary and were involved in the big, bold and brash numbers. They represented the commercial, fun-loving, larger-than-life America that we all love and know so well!
The three named friends had great voices, Abiona Omonua as Pilar was my personal favourite given the richness of her voice – it possessed a warm and substantial quality.
The part of Warner Huntington the 3rd was played by Ben Freeman who I remember from the Emmerdale of the 90s– I used to watch the soap when I was quite young(!) and even then I remember he was the looker of the programme and tended to have the luck with the ladies. (I also remember his character Scott used to drive a yellow sports car too).
It was ever so strange seeing him on stage to begin with, hearing him sing and what’s more, hearing him adopting an American accent! He was good and had a very clear presence on stage. I found his American accent a little annoying, not because it was bad… Maybe it was partially due to my recollection of him as Scott Windsor but it was definitely due to the way in which he spoke, kind of speaking through one side of his mouth and changing his voiceless alveolar sibilants to voiceless palato-alveolar sibilants (okay, enough with the pretention already: basically it was annoying how he would pronounce his ‘s’ as ‘sch’, like schweetie for sweetie)! I had thought maybe he chose to speak that way in order to add a little irritation to his character and sub-consciously alienate the audience. Maybe he wanted to give his character an outward flaw to reflect his inward flaws! Oh the dimensions one could take!
Anyway, I really loved the storyline between Elle and Emmett. So sweet! The songs between them were so warming and during the first act, I was silently screaming at Elle to forget Warner and open her eyes to Emmett…
Elle, or rather, Carley Stenson was superb. Her American accent was virtually faultless and she truly captured the essence of Elle. The danger with playing such a comedic 90210esque character is overacting and overdoing the dramatics, but Stenson succeeded in giving Elle life, in making her a loveable character but avoided the ridiculous and annoying! I enjoyed the little touches she added to Elle, like her tip-toeing backwards on her high heels and her bond with Bruiser the dog was believable and realistic.
It’s a real shame that the show is coming to a West End end! (April 7) The musical is a real feel-good experience and exudes comedy, romance, love and law.
As my journalist friend pointed out, Legally Blonde does play up to a lot of stereotypes which could be detrimental but it is evident in this musical that everything is done tongue-in-cheek and that it is all about fun and ultimately the musical shares some valuable values! It teaches us about the importance of persevering, of not giving up in the face of adversity and in the words of Vivienne Kensington, Elle’s initial enemy, “She [Elle] taught me and showed us all that being true to yourself never goes out of style!”