Photos supplied by Threshold Theatre Company
A quick scan around the enthusiastic Playhouse audience soon tells you the apparent target demographic for this fast-moving feelgood rollercoaster musical – lots of girls and young women. But this is an upbeat show for all ages which you would need a heart of stone not to enjoy. Some in the Norwich audience may be familiar with the show from its outing at the Theatre Royal just over a year ago, but while that was a professional touring cast this Threshold Theatre Company offering is an infectiously lively local production, directed by the energetic Dan Rayner. We have reviewed a few of Dan’s productions including Hairspray and Elf and one thing is clear from all of them, that Dan has a way of getting an amateur cast to turn out very professional looking theatre.
Legally Blonde tells the story of a determined young woman, Elle Woods (Rebecca Jillings) who seems to love everything pink, fluffy and romantic with a special talent in shopping. We meet her and her hyper bunch of cheerleading chums as she prepares for the hot date with Warner (Alex Green) where she is confident of extracting a proposal of marriage from him. But her pouting pinkness and blonde ambition is cruelly thwarted when he dumps her in order to head for Harvard and a career in law and he hopes, government.
Many a girl would give up at this point but Elle is made of sterner stuff, and determines that she too will win a Harvard place and win back Warner. With the rather unorthodox assistance of her little pooch Bruiser (Mimi) and her Greek chorus of pom-pom twirling girls she manages to capture her Harvard place, only to find Warner already engaged to another girl, Vivienne (Izzy Cutler). Undaunted she presses on aided by fellow student Emmett (Thom Guttridge) and feisty hairdresser Paulette (Charley Smith). Much of the plot is in the songs, and when the cheerleader girls are about some rather flash dance numbers.
Elle continues to defy expectations as this well-written adventure progresses, facing setbacks, snobbishness and outright bad behaviour from unexpected quarters, but she remains resolutely cheerful and upbeat throughout. Should she falter then the kindness she has shown friends like Emmett and Paulette is repaid happily to keep her on her path to graduating as a top lawyer. Along the way we meet our second canine star, Rufus, Paulette’s pet played by the talented Sonny.
The costumes for this show, designed by Dan Smith who is also on stage, are a big part of its success. Bright, colourful sexy and sassy they set the tone for the young college kids just stepping (or high kicking) into adult life in an America where how you look can make or break your start in life.
With a cast of nearly thirty and some chunky bits of set this company make use of every inch of the Playhouse stage and all the technical stuff works well, with some nice innovative lighting effects. At first I struggled to follow the diction of one or two, but as you tune in to the raucous world of American sorority style the clever one-liners and quips keep you on your toes. There are no lacklustre performances from this cast and several stand out for their characterisations, including Krissi Kitson as convict Brooke Wyndham and Sam Watkinson as Kyle the UPS guy who captures Paulette’s attentions. However the undoubted star of the show is Rebecca Jillings, who can sing beautifully while always taking the limelight as the never shy or retiring Elle. The dancing girls and boys are great fun popping up at the most unexpected moments, often to help explain the finer points of capturing romantic attention U.S. style.
What makes this show worth watching is the enthusiasm of the cast, their enjoyment is infectious and any very slight stumbles or mishaps on this busy stage are missed as we enjoy the full colour fairy tale of a girl on top of her game, driven by love. Even if you think this might be just a bit of froth for a young audience, give it a go and be pleasantly surprised. Powered by a great script and lively musical numbers this is a show that sends everyone home happy and singing along, and has given some of our local stars a chance to shine on stage. Keep your eyes out for this crew in the future!
© Julian Swainson 2019
Legally Blonde the Musical by Threshold Theatre Company is at Norwich Playhouse until Saturday 1st June.
To book tickets or for more information about shows: call 01603 630000 or Book online at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
Read the Eye review of the Theatre Royal production here: https://norwicheye.co.uk/whats-on/norwich-eye-reviews-legally-blonde/