Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical at the Kilworth House Theatre

Legally Blonde The Musical
Kilworth House Theatre (Leicestershire)
Reviewed on Saturday 29th August 2015

Ever since Legally Blonde took its final West End bow in 2012 I have been yearning to see the show again. The ultimate feel good musical, there is so much more to Legally Blonde than some might think. It is a cleverly constructed piece of theatre with fascinating influences; the score keeps you on your toes whilst the storyline oozes with heart.

Based on Amanda Brown's novel and the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde follows sorority girl Elle Woods as she does whatever it takes to get into Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend who dumped her in favour of someone more serious (and brunette).

Mitch Sebastian's new revival is staged at the Kilworth House Theatre. This marked my first visit to the venue which is breathtakingly stunning. We were blessed with glorious weather and enjoyed a pre-show picnic before taking our seats in the outdoors (unlike Regent's Park, the theatre is fully covered). 

It was interesting to see a different take on a show I had previously seen so many times. Overall the staging is a success. A handful of moments may feel clunky, but the choreography is high energy and the show's overall rhythm is spot on - there's never a dull moment. The humour is superb and has such wide appeal. I think Legally Blonde was more successful in London than on Broadway because of its tone; it's smart and allows the audience to laugh at just how ridiculous Elle's actions are without it becoming two dimensional. There is something for everyone to enjoy, it's far from a girly chick flick.

The star of the show is the phenomenally talented Jodie Jacobs who takes on the role of Paulette, a hair stylist who befriends Elle by talking her out of a life changing decision through singing her a song about Ireland (it all makes sense when you see it, trust me). Stopping the show several times, Jacobs' comic timing is impeccable whilst her vocals are to die for. Her stage presence is so effortless and she truly masters the actor/audience  relationship from the word go. Jacobs is beyond sublime, her portrayal of Paulette is the strongest I have ever seen.

Elsewhere Luke Newton resembles a young Richard Fleeshman as Warner, Elle's ex-boyfriend. His smooth vocals are a perfect fit for the score and he showcases great charisma. Greg Miller Burns shines as geeky Emmett who, after befriending Elle, should not be underestimated. Jenny Gayner whips up a storm as Brooke Wyndham, who becomes Elle's first legal client. Gayner commands the stage and truly dazzles during her number which opens the second act.

Graham Vick impresses as Professor Callaghan alongside Jodie Steele, Charlie Bull and Aimie Atkinson who bring bundles of laughs as Elle's sorority sisters. Jennifer Neil steals some of the biggest laughs as Enid, James Cohen quite literally stops the show and sets pulses racing as Kyle the UPS guy and Grace Holdstock as Vivienne is the bitch we love to hate who turns out to have a belter of a voice.

It took me a while to warm to Jennifer Harding's portrayal of Elle. I know we are supposed to witness the character undergo a tremendous transformation and embark on a personal journey like no other, but during the first twenty minutes or so her performance seemed a little too shallow and lacking in heart. Harding progressed to step forward and make me eat my words as from about half way through the first act everything clicked into place, she relaxed into the role and brought out new qualities in Elle that I haven't seen before. Rarely leaving the stage, Elle Woods is a mammoth role but it doesn't seem to phase Harding who struts around the stage like there's no tomorrow.

Legally Blonde is a very special show and it was an utter joy to see a completely fresh take on it. Jodie Jacobs gives one of the finest performances of the year so far in Mitch Sebastian's ballsy production. I loved spending the evening surrounded by the beauty of Kilworth House and can't wait to return next season.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Legally Blonde The Musical runs at the Kilworth House Theatre until Sunday 20th September 2015. Please visit for further information and tickets

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