It’s not every day you see a tiny, nonchalant dog do a somersault in a pink hoodie. At least it isn’t in Manchester. But then, set partly in Malibu, California, Legally Blonde transports us to a whole other world. One where pink velour trackies are sexy, not chavvy. And people sing to each other, not avoid eye contact on the Metrolink.
We open on perfect homecoming queen Elle Woods glamming up for a romantic meal with her even-more-perfect boyfriend Warner. But rather than pop the question, instead, he bursts her bubble by dumping her. Thanks to waterproof mascara and some BFFs, Elle then tries to win Warner back by bagging herself a place at Harvard Law School. Turns out she’s not just a pretty face after all.
Nominated for almost as many awards as Elle has costume changes (that’s a huge 19 folks), it’s certainly got the grades. But is it as good on stage as it is on paper?
Had I been a rough, tough bloke with an enviable collection of power tools, I may have reviewed it differently. But then again, had I been a rough, tough bloke with said tools, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Because unlike Elle, Legally Blonde doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It’s out there in all its camp, glittery glory.
That said, whilst Elle’s friends may be airheads (albeit with top-notch vocals), the audience isn’t expected to be. There are loads more jokes, risqué comments and witty one-liners than you’d expect, and even a fair few LOL moments (a term I may not have used prior to seeing this). Some of the biggest laughs came from ‘the UPS guy’ – a love interest with the shortest shorts and biggest thighs outside of a World’s Biggest Thighs convention (as soon as it’s hosted at Manchester Central, we’ll be there to cover it). Described as “walking porn” by Claire Sweeney’s Paulette, who’s given some of the best lines, the frankly amazing orchestra even gave him a signature theme tune each time he strutted on stage.
You don’t have to have seen the movie to follow it – sing-along Citizen Kane it ain’t – and the narrative keeps up pace, due in part to snappier songs over epic, dramatic numbers. The script also brings things bang up to date from the 2001 movie, using 2011 references. And with music so tight, performances so polished and set-piece transitions so smooth, it was easy to forget it was live. In a good way. There was even burping on cue.
With Faye Brookes in the lead role, the cast are largely stars of the theatre than the small screen. But you know you’re in safe hands, and the familiar faces you do see can carry a tune as well as the next man – or girl.
There are two types of musical. One where spoken dialogue is peppered by killer songs. And one where the whole thing is one long killer song. So, if you’re more a fan of the 80s Ricki Lake version of the movie Hairspray, be warned. It’s more in line with the all-singing, all-dancing remake. Which is great if that’s your bag – Louis Vuitton or otherwise.
But as someone who’s more a fan of the former, I can still say it was unadulterated, lighthearted fun. As a great ingredient for a girlie night out, it was like the rosé champagne quaffed at the Harvard graduation ball. Bubbly but not too sweet. Sparkling without ever going flat. And of course, very, very pink.
Opera House Manchester
18-29 October 2011