Legally Blonde on stage: ‘far wittier’ than the film

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is host to this ‘smart show about brains as well as beauty’

Still from Legally Blonde on stage
Courtney Bowman: a ‘beautifully sung performance’
(Image credit: Pamela Raith)

The Regent’s Park summer season has got off to a flying start with an “audacious” revival of Legally Blonde, said Clive Davis in The Times. “Go with an open mind and you’ll be blown away” – even if you’re not a fan of the 2001 movie.

For the uninitiated, Legally Blonde tells the tale of ditzy, pink-loving fashion-obsessed Elle Woods (played in the film by Reese Witherspoon), who wangles a place at Harvard Law School in an effort to win back her ambitious, intellectually snobbish ex-boyfriend Warner. She struggles with academia at first, then unveils a razor-sharp legal mind. The film was a hit, but this stage musical, which launched on Broadway in 2007, is “far wittier”, with “insidious melodies” and lyrics with the cheek to rhyme “snobs” with “Thomas Hobbes”.

For this production, director Lucy Moss – co-creator of the hugely successful pop musical Six – has brought the material “bang up to date” for the internet age (references to Instagram and the Kardashians abound) “without sacrificing its joie de vivre”.

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Legally Blonde is a “smart show about brains as well as beauty, and about the way they interact in society at large”, said Sarah Crompton on What’s on Stage. It is also funny and heartwarming. Moss has upped “the fun and the fizz”, and also revamped the show with unusually diverse casting. As Elle, Courtney Bowman – mixed-heritage and sporting blonde braids – is “about as far from the Mean Girls image” as you can get. She gives a “witty, beautifully sung performance of considerable authority”, and is matched by some fine supporting turns.

Bowman is brilliant, agreed Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph; she charts Elle’s “journey of self-discovery with nuance, shifting from initial hurt and bashfulness to indestructible resolve”. The big problem, though, is the dearth of memorable songs. “There’s only so much snappy, campy choreography – aping TikTok-style syncing – and more-wittering-than-witty numbers you can take before déjà-vu and déjà-entendu sets in.”

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London NW1. Until 2 July

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