Review: Legally Blonde, at Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre

Brilliant moments and breathtaking choreography in musical

Friday, 3rd June — By Richard Osley

Legally Blonde

Courtney Bowman and ensemble in Legally Blonde. Photo: Pamela Raith

LEGALLY Blonde has its garish pink cake and eats it too, happily departing from its origins by appointing a diverse cast, but sticking fairy loyally to the musical’s cartoon storyline which has always slightly undermined its worthy messaging.

For here is Courtney Bowman upsetting the 90s purists that Elle Woods must be as white and stick thin as Reece Witherspoon in the film or as blonde and familiar as Sheridan Smith in the original production at the Savoy 15 years ago – and having a riot doing so.

The repeated urges not to judge a book by a cover swim along nicely as Elle flits from Malibu party queen to surprise Harvard law school success against a backdrop of hurtling disco numbers and routines. The choreography at times is breath-taking, including a skipping rope set piece where not a beat is missed.

Skate over the fact, then, that one of Elle’s legal successes comes when a witness concealing his homosexuality does not react to her “bend and snap” routine of picking up a dropped pen. You can just as effectively render a man helpless by twerking your backside, we learn, than a sharp cross examination courtroom.

Director Lucy Moss does her best to wrestle the worst bits of the 2001 script which struggled on Broadway, but inevitably some will remain.

It’s better to concentrate on the beaming brilliant moments, many of which are stolen by Nadine Higgin as Paulette, Elle’s hairdresser friend who has learned her own lessons in love. The strength of her voice is a little unfair on her comrades. The shifting clouds stood still when she belted out the comic ballad, Ireland.

There are possibly one too many chorus prances up and down the set steps that could be edited out for a sleeker script.

But then the open-air theatre, especially on a dry night, remains one of the most beautiful settings in London as night falls, so the late finish and repeated riffs of “ohmigod” isn’t really a reason to grumble. All good fun.

Until July 2

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