Round-up of reviews of LEGALLY BLONDE at the Savoy Theatre in London

The reviews of Legally Blonde, which opened on Wednesday at the Savoy Theatre in London, were largely positive.  Cleverly the producers allowed critics to review preview performances as well as the official First Night – which meant they were exposed to some of the hard-core fans that have alreday started to gather around this show. This was a smart move as the infectious enthusiasm of the audience won over many of the critics – all of whom seemed to come to the show with misgivings.

Whilst nearly all the reviews had reservations about the plot, they couldn’t resist being taken by the tongue-in-cheek humour of the show, and particuarly the strong central performce of Sheridan Smith as Elle Woods (see a summary of the plot here). All apart from Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail…

STAR RATINGS

The Guardian [rating:3]

The Telegraph [rating:4]

The Times [rating:4]

The Independent [rating:4]

Daily Mail [rating:2]

Evening Standard [rating:4]

OPENING THOUGHTS

DM: Legally Blonde is so pink it is as though the IRA planted a bomb in the late Dame Barbara Cartland’s laundry basket. It is pink not just in the colour of many of the clothes and stage effects. It is pink to the core of its little, tiny soul.

ES: It’s not often that a West End musical references Simon Cowell, case law and the science of getting a perm. But this is Legally Blonde, in which gags about spring break rub up against throw-aways about Gloria Steinem and Thomas Hobbes, and with its mix of daftness and knowingness this sugary yet far from stupid romp will surely be a palpable hit.

VA: Size, as they say, matters. That idea is not lost on Sonia Friedman and her raft of U.K. producers on “Legally Blonde,” who have put the show in a smallish house more accustomed to plays than lavish tuners. Their financial gamble pays off big time thanks to a heap of reasons, chief among them being casting. This guilty pleasure of a show remains precision-engineered candy-floss, but as Elle, pint-sized knockout Sheridan Smith gives it heart and helium levels of happiness.

TI: Omygod, as a jazzily dressed set of sorority sisters keep squealing at the start of the delightful, annoying, supremely wishful musical that’s just come frolicking into Blighty from Broadway. Omygod, a girl can make it in a male-dominated world without sacrificing a dab of pink lipstick.

IN: I had thought snootily that the stage show of Legally Blonde might put the “ugh” in “euuuugh!” But omigod was I like totally blown away.

GU: It is, of course, preposterous: an LA fashion student conquers Harvard law school and becomes a courtroom star. But, for all its absurdity, I found this Broadway musical infinitely more enjoyable than the 2001 Hollywood movie on which it is based.

TE: OMIGOD! I tried, I really tried to hate this show, but resistance is futile. It’s going to be a huge hit and if you’re a chap, your wife or girlfriend is almost certain to drag you along. You might as well give in gracefully now.

ON SHERIDAN SMITH

ES: Sheridan Smith is emphatically the star of the show… It’s a performance of great warmth and enthusiasm.

IN: With her brilliantly warm, winning, witty and all-round adorable performance as Elle, Sheridan Smith achieves stage stardom like some jaw-dropping hole-in-one in golf… This girl can twirl on a dime and take you from elating silliness to genuine sadness in less time than it takes to say “Delta Nu”.

VA: Elle dreams of a bright and shiny life, a hope-filled demeanor Smith delivers in spades. It’s infectious and immensely winning because she deploys razor-sharp comic timing without ever sacrificing properly developed emotion. She’s deliciously knowing but never arch. Even when surrounded by silliness, she has an uncanny knack of making you lose sight of the performer, to empathize directly with the character’s hopes and dreams.

TE: The chief glory of the show is Sheridan Smith as Elle, blessed with vitality, warmth, great comic timing and sudden moments of touching vulnerability. She is infinitely more likeable than Reese Witherspoon in the film.

GU: Sheridan Smith as Elle is also far more vivacious than Reese Witherspoon. Smith is perky, trim, and sings and dances excellently. But her true star quality lies in her sense of mischief, which I first noticed when she was a teenager appearing with the National Youth Music Theatre. Blessed with the long upper lip of a natural comic, Smith sails buoyantly through the show with a radiant smile as if warning us not to take it too seriously.

DM: Miss Smith’s singing voice is not strong but she brings a likeable cheekiness to the part. A crueller critic might wonder if she is glamorous enough for the role.

IN A NUTSHELL

ES: Legally Blonde is a winner. It’s energetic and amusing, with a sprightly sense of pace, and all but the most flinty-hearted theatregoers will leave it flushed with delight.

IN: It may not be quite as good as Hairspray (it lacks that show’s lovely, double-bluffing libertarian dimension), but it’s ridiculously enjoyable from start to finish and camp peroxide-perfection in terms of its showbiz roots.

VA: this transfer looks set to thrive as long as Smith wants to stick around and steal hearts.

TI: Let’s overlook some forgettable tunes and welcome dance that embraces everything from skipping with ropes to spoof Riverdance. Let’s relish the support both of a fake-Greek chorus dressed as cheerleaders and of two cute, unnaturally obedient dogs. Let’s agree that Legally Blonde is, well, fun.

TE: This is rom-com with a welcome touch of irony.

GU: I can only report that the ­predominantly female audience with whom I saw the show seemed to be ­having a whale of a time and did not give a damn about the fact that the musical is little more than a nonsensical fairytale.

DM: The plot is pap, the musical unmemorable, the dancing often hefty except for one routine with skipping ropes.

KEY TO REVIEWS:

GU = Guardian: Michael Billington. Read review

TE = Telegraph: Charles Spencer. Read review

TI = The Times: Benedict Nightingale. Read review

VA = Variety: David Benedict. Read review

IN = The Independent: Paul Taylor. Read review

ES = Evening Standard: Henry Hitchings. Read review

DM = Dail Mail: Quentin Letts. Read review

Book tickets to see LEGALLY BLONDE at the Savoy Theatre in London