28th April 2016
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Type of Production
Author: Julie Petrucci
I have not seen either the stage musical or film of Legally Blonde before and I have to admit the opening few songs of the show left my ears ringing from an excess of shrill American bobby-soxers, and I wondered both what it was about this show that made it such a success in the West End and whether I was going to enjoy my evening.
The plot is minimal: an apparently dumb blonde gets herself an education so that she can follow the boyfriend (who dumped her) to law school in order to win him back. Along the way she encounters sexism and discrimination but overcomes it all with her intelligence and finds true love.
The songs, with a couple of exceptions, are not terribly memorable either and so it must have been the direction and the strength and quality of the lead characters that won me over – as it did with Jamie Maguire’s production for Bury St Edmunds Operatic. It won me over and I just couldn’t help enjoying it.
This show had a multi talented cast of characters. The principal girls were well cast and excelled in their roles particularly leading lady ‘extraordinaire’ Emma Ward as the irrepressible Elle Woods, whose lovely singing and genuine character portrayal were a delight to watch.
In an especially enjoyable performance as the romantic lead Nick Snelling very ably portrayed Emmett, Elle’s only ally in the law school whom she eventually realises she loves.
Kate Steggles shone as Elle’s hairdresser friend and confidante, Paulette. Her solo “Ireland” was particularly memorable being beautifully sung and acted and she has an excellent sense of comic timing which was put to good use in her scenes with UPS man Kyle played by Adam Stewart who, despite having his fan club in the night I was there, just managed to refrain from going totally over the top.
All the other principal members of cast, far too many to be named individually, performed their singing, acting and dancing with great enthusiasm. I must single out though Lindsay Miller, for her beautiful portrayal of Vivienne, Elle’s bitchy and snobbish rival in love, and also Fraser Simpson as Warner whose voice I would be happy to listen to any day. There were also many other smaller roles essential to the story line which were very well interpreted.
The leads were given tremendous support by a young and hugely energetic chorus under the baton of MD Vicky Calver and imaginative choreography from Heather Couch. Their energy, enthusiasm and enjoyment in their ensemble numbers was exhausting to watch! Could I understand all the words in the songs which obviously ‘progressed the story’?… no, but practically every modern production I see from Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Sister Act and others, all suffer from some lack of clear projection. Loud volume doesn’t necessarily equate with understandable diction. Sometimes too, however good an orchestra is (and this orchestra was excellent), there is always the danger of it overpowering the cast.
Technically the production worked well. What initially appeared to be a relatively simple set offering good and well used choice of levels, was augmented with trucks moving on and off as required which all added to the overall effect. Scene changes executed by an exceedingly hardworking stage crew were accomplished extremely smoothly with scenes blending into one another almost seamlessly. The costumes were good and lighting design first rate. Compliments too on the excellent and well produced magazine-style programme.
Using the maxim never judge a book by its cover, this show goes to prove that very modern musicals can have a terrific following and BSEAODS proved it can provide the talent to take a ‘newish’ West End release and fully do it justice. This was ultimately an eminently enjoyable show presented with tremendous energy and pizazz – a credit to Director and Assistant Director Jamie Maguire and Marc Kerr and to Bury Operatic.