Legally Blonde NODA review
We were pleased to welcome our NODA rep, Chris Davies, during the run of Legally Blonde and here are his thoughts on the show!
Date: 7th October 2023
Society: Alcester Musical Theatre Company
Venue: The Palace Theatre, Redditch
Type of production: Musical
Director: Bev Hatton
Musical Director: Phil Radden
Choreographer: Naomi Beckford
Written by: Laurence O'Keefe, Nell Benjamin, Heather Hatch
Report author: Chris Davies
It was my pleasure to join AMTC once more, for a trip to Harvard law school (via the Redditch Palace Theatre), in the company of the fabulous cast of Legally Blonde. And omigod you guys, what a trip! The AMTC team delivered a show of high quality, with excellent performances fully backed up by the backstage departments – this was a group firing on all cylinders!
Legally Blonde charts the adventures of Elle Woods who, having been dumped by her upwardly mobile boyfriend, sets out to prove that she is not some blonde bimbo and – initially at least – to win back her man. Embarking on a legal course at Harvard, Elle is forced navigate her way to success through a difficult course laced with of snobbery, prejudice, and treachery. But, in the end, Elle’s particular knowledge set turns out to be remarkably useful in winning a case, and the show concludes with the girls on top.
Millie Coles was dazzling as Elle Woods, perfectly capturing the character and leading the performance with skill and vigour. Singing, dancing, acting, dog wrangling – she had it all and absolutely lit up the stage. NODA West Midlands don’t give awards for individual performances, but if we did she would surely be a strong contender.
But a lead is no good without quality support, and the rest of the principal cast provided this in spades. Matthew Bridgewater was just right as the crumpled Emmett Forest, strong in both characterisation and singing. He and Millie had good onstage chemistry, and the romance between them was totally believable. Ben Moore was suitably self-obsessed as the rotter Warner Huntinton III, also showing the necessary charm to make it easy to see why Elle would fall for him. And as Vivienne Kensington, Jo Hargreaves made the switch from scheming enemy to supportive friend seamlessly.
Legally Blonde features a couple of great supporting roles, in particular the upbeat hairdresser Paulette – a role that Beth Marden grabbed with both hands. This was another excellent performance, and she took the show-stopping singing opportunity of ‘Ireland’ with relish. I have always felt that the moment when Professor Callaghan makes a move on Elle seems like a blunt shoehorn to move the plot along, but Michael Treagust made it work, and was also good in the early scenes, particularly as Callaghan sneered his way through ‘Blood in the Water’. Solid support was also provided by Lauren Stanley (Enid – finding plenty of humour in the role), Debbie Salkeld (Brooke – working wonders with a skipping rope) and Jamie Glenn (Kyle, the UPS guy – very funny and giving good swagger!)
Alongside the principals were a large ensemble of delta nu’s, court staff, skippers, relatives and shop assistants. They all played their parts, in delivering a performance of high quality. Elle’s imaginary Greek chorus was much larger than I’ve seen elsewhere, rather than focusing primarily on the trio of Margot, Serena and Pilar, but this was a perfectly valid approach and strong performances across the chorus meant that it worked fine. And of course no rundown of the cast can be complete without mention of the two dogs, Hugo and Daisy, who hit their marks (albeit occasionally with a little reluctance!) and charmed the audience.
Director Bev Hatton marshalled the cast expertly and did a good job of injecting humour into the show where possible – I thought the scenes at the hairdressers stood out in particular in that respect. The singing and dancing in this show was performed to a high standard across the entire cast. The choreography, by Naomi Beckford, was seamlessly integrated into the performance, so much so that I often didn’t notice when we were into a ‘dance section’. I mean this as a compliment – the dancing felt like a natural part of the storytelling. Musical director Phil Radden expertly led the ten-piece orchestra, who added real pizazz to the show’s musical numbers.
The lighting for this production was exceptionally good. It was clear that real care had been taken to choose lighting with intent, to enhance the storytelling and the impact of the songs, and this was very clearly achieved. Amongst many good moments, I particularly liked the multi-coloured lights surrounding the stage during ‘Gay or European?’ – very clever and effective. Hearty congratulations to Hannah Finch and her team. Costume and set were also well handled, and the scene changes very calmly achieved by the backstage team.
A huge well done to the whole team at AMTC, for delivering two hours plus of vibrancy and energy from the Palace theatre stage. This was an excellent show, for which you can all be justifiably proud. Many thanks for inviting me, and I look forward to something altogether more spooky (if, perhaps, equally kooky!) with The Addams Family in 2024.