Legally Blonde review: A seriously fabulous revival of the bubbly hit musical

This production of the film-turned-musical favourite thinks outside the box and is so much better for it

Nicole Vassell
Wednesday 25 May 2022 14:26
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<p>A law unto herself: Courtney Bowman (Elle) in 'Legally Blonde’ at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre</p>

A law unto herself: Courtney Bowman (Elle) in 'Legally Blonde’ at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

People have been rooting for Lucy Moss’s revival of Legally Blonde the Musical. The 2001 film still has a devoted following over two decades since its release, and the 2007 stage adaptation is a fan favourite. When pictures of Courtney Bowman as Elle Woods, with blonde braids and a big smile, were plastered across social media, the anticipation for the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre run only grew. By opening night, large sections of the crowd were wearing all pink in honour of the musical’s signature colour. The hope and the love for this show is palpable. Thankfully, the fans will be more than satisfied – this production is seriously fabulous.

After her smarmy boyfriend Warner (Alistair Toovey) dumps her in a bid to be more “serious” with life, a heartbroken Elle gets studying. Her plan? Follow him across the country to enrol at Harvard Law School. Naturally. Though she’s there initially to try to win him back, she eventually finds true love in the practice of law. (Go feminism!) As our bubbly, blonde heroine, Bowman is a star; effervescent and bright, with second-to-none comic timing. Singing-wise, it’s a challenging vocal role that she nails at every turn, bringing belting strength in numbers such as “So Much Better” and sweetness and vulnerability in hearty ballad “Legally Blonde”. It’s everything you’d want from a leading lady, particularly in a show where she’s barely off stage.

It may be Elle’s world, but the rest of the cast do anything but fade into the background. Nadine Higgin shines as brassy salon owner Paulette, making the audience genuinely laugh out loud in her every scene, while Michael Ahomka-Lindsay is a charming crowd-favourite as Emmett, Elle’s Harvard ally (in a role that could easily be forgettable). From the Delta Nu sorority sisters to the actors playing canine companions Bruiser and Rufus, the ensemble cast bounds with zest and passion. Everyone looks at home in this dynamic Legally Blonde universe. Meanwhile, numbers such as skipping rope spectacle “Whipped Into Shape” show off Ellen Kane’s sharp and impressive choreography.

The world has changed from the days of scented paper resumés and landline phone calls seen in Reese Witherspoon’s movie portrayal. Elle’s CV now has digital animations, while characters FaceTime from afar and film routines for TikTok, ring light and all. Other modifications have been made to reflect the production’s diverse cast: law student Enid is played by actor Alžbeta Matyšáková, who uses they/them pronouns – so lyrics that previously referred to the character’s gender are subtly adjusted from the original to reflect this.

This production of Legally Blonde is as fresh as the air it’s performed in and easily marks one of the most inclusive shows I’ve ever seen. It proves that there’s no need to stick rigidly to past versions to make a great musical great once again. Really, there’s nothing to indicate that Elle Woods, nor Emmett, nor Paulette or even preppy princess Vivienne (Vanessa Fisher) ever had to be strictly played by white actors – so why has it taken so long for a major run to do otherwise? When casting directors think outside the box and create shows with the same variety that exists in the real world, theatre can really dazzle. And on this occasion, Legally Blonde is so much better for it.

‘Legally Blonde’ runs until 2 July at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

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