Revenge Is Sweet

Written by Richard Barber

Anyone who has seen the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, or who caught Sheridan Smith on the London stage as Elle Woods, will be familiar with this gossamer-thin, pink-saturated confection. So it’s pointless to dismiss the new touring production of Legally Blonde for being about as deep as a puddle. Yes, it’s cartoonish in its simplicity but there’s fun to be had along the way and especially in the considerably sharper second half.

Elle is a Valley girl, blonde to her peroxide roots and for whom pink, as she says herself, is ‘her signature colour’. The assumption, then, is that she’s unlikely to qualify for Mensa. But when boring, buttoned-up Warner Huntington III (Liam Doyle), with his eye on high office, drops her as his girlfriend because he feels he needs a more serious partner, our heroine swings into action.

‘I’ll wear black,’ she declares, ‘even though I won’t be going to a funeral.’ And then she sets her sights on winning a place at Harvard Law School (alongside Warner) by way of proving she’s as smart as him. It’s there she meets lovable, crumpled Emmett Forrest (David Barrett) who can see past the ditsy exterior right into Elle’s soul.

No need to detain you with how the plot unfolds as Elle emerges as top intern, quite undaunted by self-important Professor Callahan (Bill Ward, rather good), and outwitting lemon-lipped rival, Warner’s new girlfriend, Vivienne Kensington (Laura Harrison, ditto), along the way. And bet you’ll never guess who gets the girl in the end.

There’s quite a lot of unnecessary dancing and there’s no hit song from the show (music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin) although I liked the much-reprised title song and the witty Gay or European in Act II. At least, I think it was called that, but whoever put together the expensive programme didn’t see fit to list the musical numbers, many of which were hampered by an over-amplified, baggy sound system.

An efficient Rebecca Stenhouse stepped up for an indisposed Lucie Jones when I caught it in Woking. Helen Petrovna had a terrific routine involving illuminated skipping ropes before doubling as murder suspect Brooke Wyndham. But I would say absolutely the overwhelming reason for parting with your hard-earned money
is the fabulous performance by an underused Rita Simons, formerly Roxy Mitchell, late of EastEnders’ Albert Square, who has exquisite comic timing and the best belting voice to be heard all evening. I could have done with very much more of her.

Touring until 30 June 2018: