Album Review: Legally Blonde (2010 Original London Cast)

“You must admit that Elle Woods should join the chosen few”

Part of the fun of delving back into these soundtracks, so many of which I’ve had for a while, is challenging the preconceptions that I’ve allowed to build up in my mind. Sister Act the musical is the perfect example, mentally I didn’t rate it so hadn’t listened to it for an age but upon taking the time, I discovered it to be better than I remembered. That works both ways though and I’ve long rated the Legally Blonde the Musical soundtrack on this basis, even though it really stems from me having my favourite four tracks from it on my most listened to playlist.

So yes, ‘Omigod You Guys’ and ‘What You Want’ are two brilliant songs and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Their glossy joie de vivre setting the scene perfectly for this camp-as-tits show and book-ended by the highly amusing ‘There, Right There!’ and the emotive title track which segues from its gorgeous ballad treatment into an energetic 11 o’clock number, there are some cracking musical moments in this show and with national-treasure-in-the-making Sheridan Smith at its helm as the determined Elle Woods, how could it be otherwise. Continue reading “Album Review: Legally Blonde (2010 Original London Cast)”

Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Criterion

“Learning to let go”

Just a quickie for this one-off – a fundraiser for the Make A Difference Trust of this late 1980s song cycle inspired by the AIDS memorial quilt. The original London production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens actually transferred to the Criterion – where tonight’s show was – from the King’s Head but it’s a little difficult to see how this production with its nearly 50-strong company could ever have been scaled down to fit into that Islington pub theatre. But given how the show is made up of individual songs and monologues, each inspired by a different panel on the quilt representing the life of someone who has died from HIV/AIDS, its inherent flexibility shows how it can take whatever form is needed.

Here, Stephen Whitson’s production takes on a new 21st century version of the book by Bill Russell, the updating of which has mixed results. Contemporary references clang a little awkwardly but there’s more of a problem in that neither the fast-moving world of medical advancements nor the changing nature of the epidemic itself are really reflected – the show is already a period piece in so many ways that it perhaps would be better to leave it that way rather than trying to chase a relevance that would be better served by a completely separate part two. Continue reading “Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Criterion”

Review: High Society, Old Vic

“Not bad for a 35 year old”

Kevin Spacey’s swansong as artistic director at the Old Vic doesn’t open officially until next week but I only have a handful of days left for the above quote to remain pertinent to myself so I’m writing up High Society now – the usual disclaimers about previews apply. Maria Friedman’s directorial debut was the highly critically acclaimed Merrily We Roll Along so it makes sense for her to return to the world of musical theatre with this Cole Porter classic, given added spin here as the venue remains in the round.

It’s a funny old piece though, Arthur Kopit’s book is based on Philip Barry’s 1939 play The Philadelphia Story and follows the trials of Tracy Lord (I didn’t know they had Tracys in the 1930s), a rich socialite about to get married who suddenly finds herself with three suitors – her dull fiancé, a charismatic tabloid journalist and her dashing ex-husband. As the pre-wedding parties start and the champagne flows liberally, there’s decisions to be made and some of Porter’s finest songs to be sung but little real fizz, to start with at least. Continue reading “Review: High Society, Old Vic”

2011 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Zoe Wanamaker – All My Sons at the Apollo 
Helen McCrory – The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar Warehouse 
Jenny Jules – Ruined at the Almeida
Kim Cattrall – Private Lives at the Vaudeville 
Nancy Carroll – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton 
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow at Trafalgar Studios 

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
David Suchet – All My Sons at the Apollo 
Benedict Cumberbatch – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton 
Matthew Macfadyen – Private Lives at the Vaudeville 
Rory Kinnear – Hamlet at the National, Olivier & Measure for Measure at the Almeida
Simon Russell Beale – Deathtrap at the Noel Coward & London Assurance at the National, Olivier 
Toby Stephens – The Real Thing at the Old Vic  Continue reading “2011 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical (cast change), Savoy Theatre

“Ohmigod youguys! Ohmigod!”

So after an impromptu visit to see Legally Blonde a couple of weeks ago as a favour to a friend, my scheduled return to the show took place this weekend in order to see how the new cast members are settling in, with the first major cast change since the show opened. Since I saw it so recently (and I saw so much this week too…), I’m linking to my thoughts on seeing it again here instead of repeating them: this post will focus mainly on the newbies.

Simon Thomas has taken over as Wagner, which marks a change from casting a more famous name in this role as has been done previously despite it not really being a major role at all. I remember being surprised first time round at how little the character is featured in the show, given that Duncan James’ face was plastered all over the publicity. He does well in what is quite a thankless role really, but I did enjoy his performance and his handsomeness definitely helps! Carley Stenson did well as Margot with a more endearing and sweet take on this girl, having already developed a great chemistry with the other Delta Nu girls but Siobhan Dillon just exudes confidence as Vivienne, seeming as if she’s been in the ensemble for ages with a great performance both acting-wise and in her singing, especially that whopper of a note in the Legally Blonde Remix at the end. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical (cast change), Savoy Theatre”

Re-Review: Legally Blonde – The Musical, Savoy Theatre

“Some girls fight hard; some face the trial”

I have tickets for Legally Blonde – The Musical later this month after the cast change as the final part of my trip round the musicals, but when a friend offered me a last second ticket on a cold dark night, I thought why not and decided to give this show another whirl. A more detailed review of the show can be found here, this will focus more on the performances this time round. The cast is largely the same, Richard Fleeshman being the only major change having taken over from Duncan James, but I saw Andy Mace as Professor Callaghan, on for an indisposed Peter Davison.

This really is Sheridan Smith’s show: her energy and vivacity drive proceedings on so effortlessly and naturally and she really is a gifted comic performer, getting the laughs in throughout, but also finding real emotional depth too. There was some unfortunate unscripted drama as she injured her shoulder (apparently nothing serious and not a dislocation as someone reported on Twitter) midway through the first half and the lights came back up as we anxiously waited to find out what would happen. She eventually resurfaced and continued bravely though in some discomfort, perversely lending the finale of Act I a real gritty, tear-jerking quality. An extended interval led us to suspect an understudy would appear, but to her credit, Smith finished the show and her second half performance showed no sign of the injury. I applaud her for continuing on and not wanting to disappoint her audience (who reciprocated with a raucous standing ovation) but I do worry about the physical toll this role is taking on her body, especially as she has now extended to January: it really is a demanding part, Elle is rarely off the stage and sings in the vast majority of the songs. Continue reading “Re-Review: Legally Blonde – The Musical, Savoy Theatre”

Review: Jill Halfpenny Celebrates the Great British Songbook, Wilton’s Music Hall

“This odd diversity of misery and joy”

The Great British Songbook series of concerts, devised by Neil Marcus, have previously featured Maria Friedman and Kerry Ellis in the past and now it is Jill Halfpenny’s turn to present her interpretations of British songwriting, both old and new, at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of their cabaret programming, Live at Wilton’s. Halfpenny has taken a few days leave from her regular gig in Legally Blonde and also nabbed her co-star Chris Ellis-Stanton for moral and vocal support.

hings got off to a shaky start: her version of ‘Pure Imagination’ was not the strongest and awkwardly stretched across her range (also not helped by my memory of a recent superb version by Anton Stephans) but when she did the whole cheesy welcome bit in the middle of the song and then continued singing, my heart sank as it felt like this was going to be a glossy, overly polished cabaret act, completely ill-suited to the venue. Fortunately, the end of the second song saw her revert to a pleasant normal personality whilst chatting to the audience but for whatever reason, this resulted in me ending up being hypercritical for most of the show and my notes were almost all negative. Continue reading “Review: Jill Halfpenny Celebrates the Great British Songbook, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy

“You can’t come in here with all your singing, dancing and…ethnic movements”

If Priscilla Queen of the Desert was the marshmallow on top of the whipped cream on top of your cocoa, then Legally Blonde is the full mug of the best Viennese hot chocolate you can imagine. Sticking closely to the story of the film, with just a little streamlining, we follow Elle Woods, a Malibu princess and sorority queen whose world is rocked when her boyfriend leaves her for Harvard Law School and the pursuit of someone more ‘serious’. Elle then follows him but ends up finding out a lot more about herself than she anticipated. The book is completely original and I found it surprisingly good, the opening numbers of ‘Ohmigod you guys’ and ‘What you want’ were both great tunes, ‘Ohmigod’ in particular will not leave your head for hours! There are of course some weaker numbers in there, but never any boring ones which is achievement enough. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy”