Skip to main content

Review of Legally Blonde at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

As I settled down in my chair at the Derngate to see this touring production of the musical Legally Blonde, I generally had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Never having seen the film, read little up on the show, as is my want, and sitting in a clearly unbalanced gender demographic, this show was quite clearly not targeted at me.

As the opening number, a catchy, but the incredibly screechy song, Omigod You Guys was performed, I was not, let's say, won over at first. However, it was clear that this just served as an overwhelming and ridiculous setup to the boldness of the show. The second number, Serious was a much better experience and genuinely funny song and throughout the tracks to come, there was much better to come.

Our lead is Elle Woods (a charming, bubbly Lucie Jones), a typical caricatured blonde whose sole aim in life is to get the hand of her love in life Warner Huntingdon III (Liam Doyle). When he breaks up with her in pursuit of someone "serious" to put on his arm, she targets enrollment at Harvard in pursuit of him.

It's all very lightweight, but fun, and the excellent cast bring it all to life. Lead, Jones is hugely entertaining and great vocally across all the songs and able to maintain the energy throughout the often surprisingly physical choreographed numbers performed during some of the songs. The dance routines from Anthony Williams (also director) and Dean Street actually bring a huge amount to the show, offering great physicality to the stage as well as comedy visions of dancing Harvard admissions officers or old ladies bending and snapping at Hair Affair.

I enjoyed and was honestly surprised by Rita Simons as Paulette Bonafonte, I have a soapdar of suspicions sometimes with audience grabbing casting like this, but this one works and she has a very surprisingly strong singing voice. Perhaps a lot less exciting was Bill Ward as Professor Callahan, not necessarily a lacklustre performance, but feeling like a bit more effort could have been put into his execution by numbers act. This challenge I would also direct a little at Liam Doyle and his rather boring interpretation and yes, stage presence as Warner. A little dull to be honest, which even if the character is clearly meant to be, I feel sure more life could have been put in.

None of this could have been directed at the quite brilliant David Barrett though as Emmett Forrest, a charming and well-controlled performance, quietly being excellent in every scene. He created the perfect shabby but loveable persona to perfection and I note from his biog he has been in Little Shop of Horrors, and if that wasn't as Seymour, it should have been.

From the others, Ben Harlow was clearly having too much fun as the delivery boy Kyle B O'Boyle, egging the audience into a frenzy with his poses and struts. Meanwhile, I also loved Rebecca Stenhouse's Margot including that amazing Whipped Into Shape routine.

The ensemble is strong and for a touring production nicely large, often I have challenged some touring shows for being able to pack the cast into a minibus, that's not to be levelled here. Also, there is no question that the costume budget was skimped on, with a flourish of changes on offer including a specific new set for the substantial and impressive curtain call.

There is limited drama in the play, as this is lightweight stuff. However, it's interesting to note that one particular scene between Elle and Callahan in the second act felt more impactful in light of recent news. For those never having seen the show, I am not going to spoil it, however, the effect that the one single moment had on the audience felt quite significant.

Technically opening night had a few issues going on, pre-interval sound quality was more than a little dodgy with balance all wrong and lyrics often disappearing into the wall of sound from the orchestra. A supreme quick fix had occurred post interval seemingly settling all issues and that now is what you will have to expect for the rest of the run here. Just a shame that the show wasn't ready at curtain up, soundwise. There were also the occasional misbehaving bits of the set as well which was surprising considering this has been touring a while. No one wants to see a stagehand laying on the floor clinging for dear life to a drifting bit of set, it's not pleasant.

Techincal issues aside, I know that a few friends didn't enjoy it as a show, and perhaps it is at times a little tacky, however, to me that felt the point of the whole thing. The source material I don't believe is very highbrow and often musical theatre doesn't need to be (and to be honest rarely is) clever, it is often at its best when it is frivolous and pointless like Legally Blonde is. At odds with the fact that I probably shouldn't have, I loved its silly nature and personally, I couldn't recommend it more if you just want a silly evening away from the binds of life in general.

Guilty of frivolity.

Performance reviewed: Monday 16th October 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.
Legally Blonde - The Musical runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 21st October 2017 before continuing its tour. Details at

For further details about the Royal & Derngate see their website at

Photos: Robert Workman

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Graduate Showcase at Leicester Square Theatre, London

The Graduate Showcase was pretty exciting even for me, so heaven knows how it was for the actors actually taking part. Here I was in a gathering of around twenty people (all others infinitely more important than me) at a special closed event at a West End theatre, complete with free drinks and buffet. Fortunately I had Mr Jim aka @mudbeast76 to keep me on the straight and narrow of juices after the one alcoholic one went straight to the head drink. Then as if it wasn't a surreal world as it was, there only goes and walks in Lukewarm himself, Christopher Biggins!

However, this isn't about me, this is about the thirty six ultra talented individuals who after I have followed them for a bit over a year are about to venture forth into the big competitive world of the acting community. They have though the double advantage of not only coming through the excellent three years University Of Northampton training and also being rather talented to help them in this.

This being my first s…

Review of Touching The Void at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

For those unfamiliar with this story, this review tells more than you might want to know ahead of seeing it. So, the short review for those who don't know the story of Joe Simpson, go and see this play and then come and read this review if you wish.

Staging the 1985 tale of Joe Simpson and his somewhat unbelievable, if it wasn't true, escape from surviving three days without food and water, a 150 foot fall previous, and following breaking his leg a previous, previous, seems an insurmountable challenge, but with the clever work of writer David Greig, director Tom Morris, and designer Ti Green and the rest of the creative team, we manage during a long and pulsating evening of theatre to reach that peak.

Following a short sequence of flashes of what is to come, we join Simon (Edward Hayter), Richard (Patrick McNamee) and Sarah (Fiona Hampton) at the wake of Joe Simpson, imagined for the stage and a neat way of introducing us to the story. Here Sarah, Joe's sister becomes the …

Review of Benidorm Live at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

I arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre to see this touring stage version of ITV comedy hit Benidorm with a distinct lack of knowledge. Having never seen the show, my information stretched as far as knowing it was set in a holiday resort in Spain (the title helps there), and that the humour generally resorted to the cruder end of the spectrum. However, having graced the screens for ten years, it was clear that Derren Litten's show had garnered quite a following, and indeed it was clear from the reception of the audience on the night, that this following was pretty much filling the theatre.

The plot, such as it is for this stage show, is very much drafted from an episode of Fawlty Towers, and made a great deal more adult with its humour. The hotel manager, Joyce Temple-Savage (a sharp performance by Sherrie Hewson) gets wind that a hotel inspector is in, and the scene is set for seeking them out and all the obvious cases of mistaken identity. It's thin and doesn't fill the show,…