“You need to see me in a brand new domain”
Legally Blonde The Musical turned out to be something of a surprise: a show that I grew to really love over my three visits during its West End run (review#1, review#2, review#3), whilst making a bona fide star out of its leading lady Sheridan Smith. I may not have been blown away by it on first viewing, but it worked its way into my heart and its soundtrack is one that I listen to quite often even now. Capitalising on its finish in London, a national tour of the show has taken up shop in the New Wimbledon Theatre, giving Londoners another chance to dip into the world of Elle Woods, if they’re willing to go to zone 3 that is.
Revisiting something that was so enjoyed though can have its pitfalls, as comparisons are invariably drawn. Some of it is about the realities of seeing a touring version of a show – the set will never be as impressive as in a West End house, but the design here really does come up short on a couple of occasions and the sound quality was shocking in parts. Elsewhere, some performances left me disappointed especially as the casting decisions don’t always seem to have hit the mark. It feels a little churlish to criticise Faye Brookes for not being Sheridan Smith, but her Elle doesn’t capture the loveability that is needed to keep the show swinging through its slower parts and to keep the audience invested. Gareth Gates takes on the thankless role of Warner very much against type and I’m not sure I bought him as the heartbreaker. Both sounded excellent though.
But there are many bright spots too. Hannah Grover makes a perky Brooke and Iwan Lewis is an appealing Emmett (a role Gates would probably be better suited for in the end). And the score remains as tuneful and lyrically witty as I remembered, meaning I felt quite forgiving towards the production in the end as it remains completely warm-hearted and full of fun. And perhaps my expectations were a little high – the audience response around me was largely ecstatic – and so though this is the final leg of the tour, I would not be surprised if it were to pop up again sometime soon.