Legally Blonde held court in Woking’s New Victoria Theatre on its first night out this week where it plays until Sat 14 October.
Disclaimer: I had to go into this like a puppy for that ‘special’ vet visit – reluctantly but for the good of all, for the good of society even – my daughter* told me I had to review it because the film was what inspired her to want to study law because it showed fashion and law could mix. I have a bit of an anathema to pink but when such a heartfelt plea (guilt trip) is laid on so heavily what can you do? I put it under the ‘things we do for our kids and will mention a lot when I want a visit when they’re old’ file and set forth.
*I’ve got two daughters so whichever one you think it is – it’s the other one in the interests of me getting a good Christmas present.
After noting that in this performance the role of Elle Woods was played by Rebecca Stenhouse and the role of Margot by Sally Frith due to Lucie Jones being unwell (get well soon) we all settled our belongings about us – me ready for a little rest and the daughter on the edge of the seat, bracing herself. A woman near me shifted about in her seat a lot and moaned about not liking the dates she’d had recently ‘I thought – I’m not surprised love you don’t sit still for a minute some of us are trying to rest tsk tsk!’
Bright, fashionable Elle Woods vows to woo back the love of her life Warner Huntington III (Liam Doyle) by following him to study at Harvard Law school. Dismissed as being an airhead she studies hard and manages great results, not sure about the using cheerleaders as a great role model in place of a personal statement (as the eyes next to me slid over in a questioning way I mouthed NO! Very firmly) Elle proves her worth and comes out on top smashing through stereotypes to win her career.
It was lively, pink yes, vibrant definitely and the cast were superb. The variety of characters representing the law students from the typical, entitled, ‘ready for Senate’ to Enid Hoops’ (Nancy Hill) firebrand social justice campaigner (daughter turns with a smirk and says ‘wait, you’re about to come on look – ha ha that’s you that is – see it really is a musical for all!’ like some government appointed musical tzar) worked off each other very well. The dance routines are clever and blimey! The skipping display by Helen Petrovna as Brooke Wyndham was mind boggling – not since our playground cat’s cradle c 1972 or Malcolm McLaren’s Double Dutch has skipping ever raised my blood pressure so much, admittedly in 1972 I didn’t know what blood pressure was and is now only a polite word for a tantrum after falling over (I still say I was pushed by……… no names, can’t afford a solicitor and injurylawyers4U won’t take playground cases and it wouldn’t make a good legal musical so back to this one) but, suffice to say the display on offer in Legally Blonde is incredibly skilful and choreographed without skipping a breath whilst singing a full number – I should coco! Even I leaned forward in my seat – I never lean forward- I am too cool*
Rebecca Stenhouse as Elle was incredible her comic timing was spot on with the others and the whole cast show a chemistry and dynamic that made the whole thing flow. All without exception had great vocal skills. Special mention for strong, more bluesy at times, and sweet vocals also for Rita Simons whose performance as the good hearted but vulnerable Paulette Bonafonte was comedic and poignant and her journey to finally finding the man of her dreams brought us an unexpected step dance in front of the Irish Flag to full Riverdance from the whole cast. Poor old Professor Callahan hoisted by his own petard and the solidarity of his students who initially turning on Elle recognised unfairness, sexism and that they have had their day and kicked him into touch. Bill Ward played him admirably. People of my cultural magnitude will remember him as Charlie Stubbs (nasty builder who came to a bad end) in Coronation Street but who has had a varied and rich TV and theatre career from Sophocles to Shakespeare and beyond and now, Woking and he performs with menace and elan.
The juxtaposition between Elle’s likes and lifestyle and the stuffy halls of Harvard Law School were lightly seamed together (fashion expression – skills) by using the old Greek chorus device (of sorority friends) and sliding Cupids with silver lame shorts
So as it ended and the show, especially Rebecca Stenhouse, got a well deserved standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience of people from the very young to well, people older than that, (who were clearly fans of the film – a man walked in saying ‘are there any blokes in here at all?’ – there was I saw loads) I had to concede that the stage show was excellent, uplifting, funny and vibrant and the ways the story were told told differently from the film worked really really well. I still grunted when my daughter said ‘see saving the world isn’t all wearing black and shouting ‘keep the faith’ at each other at grungey gigs is it Mum?’ I may have grunted in agreement but she still can’t have a chihuahua at University so, ha- I win!
When I got home I tried to do the ‘bend and snap’ but only the cat was there and he’s European so didn’t notice and my leggings weren’t really up to the job – who can I sue? This has made me very litigious this theatre show, I’m going to be tripping over in supermarkets and falling off pub tables on a regular basis from now on and saying m’lud -oh ok maybe the latter is a current pastime rather than an actual industrial injury.
If you are like me you don’t really need to wait for a guilt trip (heavily laden) to be visited on you to see this show, I’d go along and enjoy yourselves, even if just to look at the face of a loved one having a brilliant time. Legally Blonde is on at New Victoria Theatre Woking until Saturday 14 October 2017 tickets can be bought from http://www.atgtickets.com
This isn’t the first time the Woman in Black has brought its tour to Woking and I hope it won’t be the last, it has become of itself despite its fairly modern history, a story deserved to be counted amongst the great classic ghost stories of the likes of Wilkie Collins, MR James & Dickens and the play adaptation too is a welcome relief from what is usually frothy musical and touring tribute bands so often experienced in theatres just trying to stay open to offer some theatrical presence in towns across the country.
I arrived, scared. I have been before but still know it is different each time, the sudden shocks in different places. There were a lot of women in black milling about the foyer but luckily they looked chirpy and corporeal. I wondered if they were stealing her thunder – the real, actual, Woman In Black; outfit clashes can be an embarrassing taboo.
David Acton plays Arthur Kipps a man so traumatised by past events and held still, in their thrall. Desperate to lay ghosts to rest, he seeks help from an actor (Matthew Spence) to dramatise the events of a few days that, as a young man changed the course of his life. He needs help because he has never been able speak the words of his story to his family.
I took my friend Mary, she jumped and screamed like a big cry baby. I hadn’t really warned her (this was my third outing to the play) I am a frenemy. Well I say I didn’t warn her but my disclaimer is that I did whisper ‘brace yerself Mary’ as we sat down – not my fault she didn’t hear….
Based on Susan Hill’s novel, a torchbearer to the gothic ghost novel genre so favoured and flourished in Victorian Britain, they manage to pull off a theatrical coup – making the story so embedded in the audience imagination that the spare sets, lighting (a cast member in itself) and sound effects have you pulled in to all it’s horror, sadness and it’s comedy, for there are also a lot of laughs in it too. The atmosphere pervades throughout. To me, the play knocks the widely publicised film into a cocked hat, because it absolutely gives a chance for modern audiences to experience the art of story telling, the ghosts around the fire late at night, the primeval feeling of sensing threat, hairs standing up on the back of the neck. Not only does it tell a sad and painful story, one that spawns baleful jealousy from someone sent mad with loss but it also acts as a heritage piece giving people back something of a culture that seems lost. Not only a fine tribute to the story and it’s author but also the writer Stephen Mallatratt whose stage adaptation moves the action along so well. That it has successfully run for over 27 years is a great legacy to someone who has sadly passed away.
Though a double handed performance the dexterity of both Acton and Spence is such that it feels like a cast of many, the finely drawn characterisations that they move between has you in no doubt you are in the hands of masters of this craft and, as well as the light and shade and spare set means you have drawn in your mind vast marshlands and lonely mists, and imagine yourself seeing the Woman In Black so often referred to throughout. (No spoilers here I should get a theatrical medal I really should)
To see this play whilst in Woking get tickets here
Oh and wear sturdy pantaloons.
Here is a link to an interview with David Acton who plays Arthur Kipps in the second hour of the Radio Woking Fiery Bird Show where he gives insights into the play and the tour. Thursday 6 April https://m.mixcloud.com/radiowoking/fiery-bird-show-with-claudia-stark-featuring-david-acton-starring-in-woman-in-black/