Legally Blonde continues at Curve Leicester until 14 May.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
Legally Blonde is a deceptive show. Frivolous and fluffy as it may be, a good production lampoons itself, while at the same time making the audience an accomplice to the giddy joy of its ludicrous universe. Unfortunately, Nikolai Foster’s production at Curve feels too tired, and left to its own devices, to really engage.
The Curve is, let it not be denied, a venue of epic and individual scale. Everything in the production, save the actual score and libretto, has been hand-reared at the venue, for the production: set, costume, rehearsals, recordings, press and promo, Sarah Travis’ new band arrangements, and beyond. It’s a shame then that the finished product should feel so lacklustre.
Despite its individual competency, there’s a definite sharpness lacking from the ensemble – diction is flawed, movements don’t reach their full extent, the comic moments are misunderstood and overplayed without nuance, to an almost condescending level, and the energy of the team doesn’t seem quite as one.
There is a momentary energy spike for all during the Act II prison routine with the appearance of the fantastic Natalie Hope as Brooke Wyndham, so it’s frustrating to see the exceptions proving the rule.
Lucie Jones is a fantastic performer, with a powerhouse vocal, but Elle doesn’t feel like her role. This is an earthy, rooted performance in a character that needs light and air. Gags often fall flat because they are delivered with such earnestness that they lose their playful qualities.
Her title ballad is the one point at which her inner angst is allowed to go free, and it’s a beautiful moment. The chemistry between her and the smoothly assured Jon Robyns (Emmett) is tender, and pleasing to watch.
There are some odd casting choices all round in this show – Ian Kelsey as Callaghan is far too laidback, lacking all the sharkish danger required. His eventual betrayal of Elle comes as more of a relief than a punch to the gut.
Tupele Dorgu’s Paulette does win through despite some curious choices, her comic timing a nice respite, and some great vocals to add.
For a show based on such frivolity and excess, Matthew Wright’s set, though vivid and lurid as it should be, is a little too minimal, giving its actors little to play with and barely anything in terms of levels.
Often it feels as though Nick Winston’s choreography is designed with the necessity of filling the space and time, rather than storytelling.
This is a production which, given a little more energy and finesse, could lift itself much higher. Foster’s direction feels just a tad absent -minded for such a critical production for the Curve, and it would be nice to see him driving its constituent parts a little further past their comfort zones.