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Talented cast impress in musical

A scene from Legally Blonde. Picture by Andy Mayes/Idyllic Imagery
A scene from Legally Blonde. Picture by Andy Mayes/Idyllic Imagery

Legally Blonde,

at Haverhill Arts Centre, Tuesday, October 17.

Review by Jim Morgan

Based on the novel and the hit-movie of the same name, Legally Blonde: The Musical chronicles the journey of the famously perky Elle Woods, a fashion savvy, UCLA sorority girl who finds her life turned upside down when she is dumped by her boyfriend Warner.

Kelly Mepham as fitness instructor Brooke Wyndham inThe Centre Stage Company production of Legally Blonde. Picture: Andy Mayes/Idyllic Imagery
Kelly Mepham as fitness instructor Brooke Wyndham inThe Centre Stage Company production of Legally Blonde. Picture: Andy Mayes/Idyllic Imagery

In an effort to prove to Warner that she is more than just some blonde sorority girl, she follows him to Harvard Law, where she struggles to fit in and do well.

Ultimately, she defies expectations and manages to stay true to her delightfully pink personality.

On her directorial debut, Becca Neal has stepped up to the plate and smashed this one out of the park.

With the welcome return of Karen Sanderson with the musical baton and the choreography of Victoria Harvey, this show just kept delivering.

What is interesting about Centre Stage Company is the word stalwart can be used for actors who have not reached 25 years of age, but also the fact that they are prepared to take on new members for lead roles and “blood” young talent in principle roles too.

This show had this in spades. What was not expected was how amazingly funny this show is.

The movie critic Dr Mark Kermode says that, in a movie if you can laugh out loud six times, then the movie is funny.

With Legally Blonde, this was achieved in the first ten minutes.

The opening number is at Delta Nu sorority house in UCLA, a cleverly designed and delivered set.

The girls are all happy about the news that Elle Woods, played superbly by new member Nikki Dine-Hart was about to get engaged to the campus dreamboat Warner Huntington III, expertly portrayed by company stalwart Cian Harriss.

This incredibly technically difficult show was excellently executed throughout and the seamless change from the sorority house to the mall was very quick.

Here Nikki Dine-Hart shows what a great voice she has in the number “Ohmigod You Guys” as she shops for that perfect dress for the “proposal” dinner, ably supported by the chorus and her three best friends, skilfully played by Laura Dodd, Charlotte Allin and Seren Firat.

We move to the dinner for Elle and Warner and they are seen looking lovingly into each other’s eyes singing the song “Serious” where at the end, Warner dumps Elle, where she had expected a proposal.

From here we follow blonde Elle as she prepares to follow her love to Harvard law school, hence Legally Blonde.

Elle gets through the admissions to Harvard with a fantastically choreographed number called “What You Want” where Elle wows the board and is accepted.

She arrives at Harvard and finds “her love” is already set up with the brunette Vivienne Kensington, supremely played by another stalwart Billie Allen.

Vivienne immediately does not like Elle and sets the class against her.

Her only friend she finds is Emmett Forrest, a nerdy character played by new member Lewis Simington, who quite frankly has a voice to die for.

Professor Callahan, played by Paul Gardiner lifted the show to another level when he came on and talked about the students becoming interns in his “million dollar” law firm. He teaches the class that the only way to succeed is to have that shark killer instinct and leave “Blood in the water”, a very good rendition from Gardiner.

Elle decides that the only way to get on is to emulate the hair of her rival Vivienne, a flat bob cut brunette and tries to enrol beautician Paulette Bonafonte to sort this for her.

Paulette, consummately played by the ever-impressive Jacqui Rees Player offers words of wisdom in the number “Ireland” to stay blonde.

Vivienne invites Elle to a costume party and Paulette has the perfect costume, a playboy bunny.

When Elle arrives at the party, all girl attendees are dressed in posh frocks and the playboy outfit causes much mirth.

With an internship of offer from the professor all class mates are scrambling to get one of these places and Emmett steps up and reminds Elle that all her hard work has earned her an internship in the song “So much better”

Act II starts with the news that Brooke Wyndham, an air headed fitness guru played stunningly by Kelly Mepham, has been accused with the murder of her much older husband and is in jail.

Callahan has assembled his team of Vivienne, Warner, Elle and Enid Hoopes hilariously performed by Gemma Harrison as they try to defend the indefensible without an alibi.

Elle captures the trust of Brooke who divulges a cast iron alibi that Elle promises not to divulge, much to the annoyance of the defence team and they have to figure out another way to nail the case.

To help this, Elle gives Emmett a makeover in the number “Take it like a man”.

A superb cameo part of a hunky UPS guy, brilliantly observed by Charlie Moody adds another comedy aspect to the show and the number where Elle and her sorority sisters show Paulette how win her man with the “Bend and Snap” is so good, leading into Paulette accidently knocking out the UPS guy.

Without giving too much away, the court room scene is one of the funniest I have seen on stage for a long while, with the cameo parts of gay lovers played by Recce Hannigan and Steven Roach stealing that part of the show.

Professor Callahan shows his true colours with the intern Elle and it is at this point she realises she has fallen for Emmett in a big way.

With Elle’s success Warner goes on bended knee to propose, which was the reason Elle went to Harvard in the first place, but she refuses him.

This is a show with huge technical issues that were sucked up by the cast and crew.

The set was clever with new innovations to solve a difficult, multi-scene production. Lighting was very well done with double the usual number of cues for a musical.

This show should not be missed and there are tickets available for all performance remaining, although Saturday evening is all but sold now.

The show is on tonight (Thursday), tomorrow and Saturday, starting at 7.30pm each day, with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday.

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