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Theatre Review: Legally Blonde

Stephen Dunstan learns to bend and snap on his latest musical outing to the Winter Gardens Opera House.

Legally Blonde is the latest musical film adaptation to grace the Winter Gardens closely following The Bodyguard, Shrek and Madagascar among others. This time it’s an amateur staging by Encore Productions, though generally you would have been hard pressed to tell it apart from the professional outfits.

Younger readers may not be familiar with the original film that came out at the turn of the millennium. It is a tale about a party loving cheerleader who is ditched by her boyfriend as he prepares to go to Harvard. She also secures a place there and sets about showing she can cut it in the world of academia and become a hotshot lawyer. Without giving too much of the plot away it is a moral fable about being true to yourself and taking a stand against sexism and harassment.

The lead role of Elle Woods is handled confidently by Aimee Duxbury, who studied at Blackpool Sixth Form before graduating with distinction in musical theatre from the prestigious Hammond School. Other stand out performances include Jenny Daniels as the part of Paulette Bonafonte – in one of the numbers in the opening half she held the final note with panache.

The second half in particular also had some very comic moments. The relationship between Paulette and Kyle played by Patrick Duffy (no, not that one…) is played very much for laughs and delivers.

The staging was what would be expected in a professional performance, save for a little set wobble at one point. The musical numbers were generally very energetic and drew the audience in. The fact that some people were cheering even before things got underway suggested there were a lot of family and friends of the cast in the audience, but the strong ovation at the end suggested more neutral observers also had a great time.

The second half in particular also had some very comic moments. The relationship between Paulette and Kyle played by Patrick Duffy (no, not that one…) is played very much for laughs and delivers. And then there is the unforgettable ‘Gay or European’. To be honest it’s difficult to see a mainstream film including a number like that now, and it felt a bit like watching ‘Springtime for Hitler’ in Mel Brooks’ The Producers. But then Springtime for Hitler is hilarious and so is this number.

It would be easy to say that the two canine stars steal the show – chihuahua Bruiser played by Ellie-May and a bulldog Rufus played by Betty. They don’t because the production is too slick and small ‘p’ professional for that to be the case, but the use of endearing real dogs does add a certain ‘awww’ factor to proceedings.

Like the much more recent Barbie Movie, Legally Blonde is a film that beneath the pretty in pink persona has more to say about society and about women. n this production everything from matriculation to masturbation is covered with a light touch. If you want a feel-good night out in which true love doesn’t quite run smoothly but good prevails, Legally Blonde is recommended.

Legally Blonde runs until Saturday 9th March. Book here.

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