Legally Blonde: the Musical
Sheridan Smith's effervescent and endearing performance as Elle Woods lifts the London production of this mostly mediocre musical.
Smith plays Elle Woods, a pink-fixated sorority girl who's dumped by her ambitious boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Duncan James), who tells her that he's looking for a Jackie instead of a Marilyn. (That means she's simply not serious enough for him and his political ambitions.) Stung by his rejection, Elle decides to follow him to Harvard Law School by winning a place there herself, a feat which apparently only requires a bit of last-minute cramming and the donning of a majorette's outfit to give a special presentation. Once at Harvard, Elle is mentored by the kind-hearted, corduroy-clad law student Emmett (Alex Gaumond) and is eventually picked as an intern by the imposing Professor Callahan (Peter Davison).
As she proved when playing Audrey in the Menier Chocolate Factory's production of Little Shop of Horrors, Smith can take characters that are perky and upbeat to the point of being irritating and make the audience care about them. Her Elle is sweet-natured and smart with an amiable, self-deprecating manner. Smith has spot-on comic timing, a versatile voice and enough charisma to carry the piece, which is fortunate as there's barely a scene where she isn't on stage. The other cast members do a decent enough job -- Gaumond's growing affection for Elle seems plausible, while James' Warner has suitably arrogant cheekbones -- but it's very much Smith's show.
With the exception of "Omigod You Guys," the infuriatingly catchy opening number for Elle's sorority sisters (who function as a quasi-Greek chorus), the music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin contain an awful lot of filler. Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell's production has only a couple of lulls in pacing, but otherwise whips along nicely.