Beyond Broadway Experience, Legally Blonde The Musical
**** 4 Stars
“Glittering, Shimmering, heart warming fun!”
The Beyond Broadway Experience is now an annual fixture in the King’s Theatre Edinburgh diary, bringing together a professional production team, 10 days of rehearsals, 160 young performers from across Scotland and beyond and the challenge this year, to perform Legally Blonde The Musical.
With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach. Based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown and the successful 2001 film adaptation. Telling the story of Elle Woods (played with charm and style by Lori Davidson), a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner (Ross Dillon who embodies the two sided character so well) . She discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham (a blistering and gutsy Eilidh Murray) in a murder trial. Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle Woods, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations while staying true to herself.
The show is a highly layered and complex affair and designed for 12 principals and a small ensemble opening it up to a 160 strong cast is a mega challenge and for the most part Director Andrew Gowland succeeds thanks to his deep knowledge of the show, this isn’t his first dance with Legally Blonde as director and it shows.
Performances are on the whole excellent and well judged, Leading lady Lori Davidson shines in the role bringing the right amount of sass, dumb blondeness and winning charm as “Elle” discovers who and what she is and can achieve anything if she believes in herself. Playing opposite Davidson is Fraser McAdam in the role of Emmett Forrest, his is a performance that captures completely thanks to his understated take on the character, his declaration of love for Elle is truly moving and a wonderful moment of theatre from someone so young. In the role of Paulette is Clare Wootton who simply shines with full triple threat charm she is the beacon of the show and one can only hope she enters training fully and the arts industry as it will be so much the better for her.
Gowland’s direction is tight and assured and dispenses with a set, utilising a series of moving boxes and benches combined with human statues ensures a clean and fresh sense pervades the show its a winning formula. Choreography from Murray Grant and Louise Ferrier (with guest choreography from Broadway original cast member Nikki Snelson) is excellent and pushes the physical space of the King’s to its limits and its clear the cast give it there all. Special choreography mention must go to Corey Learmonth in the role of “Kiki” a virtually silent character that shines with his physical expression in the dance medium there is a big future ahead for him in the dance world.
The highlight of the show must be “There, Right There” a massive production number based around the pool boy confronting his sexuality and comedy joy de vere on the American march to equality its a joy to watch.
The production boasts a 10 strong band in the pit under the musical direction of Simon Hanson and its west end worthy, the punchy score is delivered in style by the musicians who are clearly giving it there all to enhance not only the experience of the performers on stage but the audience too.
Where the production doesn’t shine is in the vast number of cast, 160 is clearly to much of a stretch for legally blonde as it would be for most shows, the use of the auditorium boxes does work, even if the timing of the entries went a bit a wry, but to crane your neck to see a team of performers squashed into the second deck of boxes (above the dress circle) does the cast and show a dis-service. Perhaps fully double casting the show and alternating performances would allow more of these talented youngster there moment to shine. That being said the finale of the show with performers dripping from the boxes and across the stalls is a magical moment so its a tough choice to call.
Beyond Broadway Experience have once again delivered an unforgettable journey for performers and audience alike and they should be justly proud of what they have all achieved in just 10 days a production which is Glittering, Shimmering, heart warming fun!
So what you waiting for? bend and snap and head long to the King’s Edinburgh for a truly theatrical experience.
Beyond Broadway Experience Presents, Legally Blonde The Musical, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 20th July ( Matinee Friday 19th July will feature alternates in the lead roles) for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/legally-blonde