It is entirely appropriate that the signature colour of Elle Woods, the heroine of this screen-to-stage adaptation, should be pink.

Pink conveys all the frothy, ephemeral fluffiness of the supposedly dumb blonde who, in desperation, follows the object of her desire to university and turns out to be top of her class at Harvard Law School.

But don’t be fooled by the glitzy, throwaway wrapping of a 2001 movie aimed at teenage girls. This new incarnation is a proper musical, and it has Broadway and West End credentials to prove it.

Now out on the road after a hugely successful London run, Legally Blonde has a toe-tapping score by husband-and-wife team Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and a taut, witty script from Heather Hatch. It’s closely based on the film, but the music adds immeasurably, especially in the hands of a tuneful, nine-strong live pit band.

Stepping into the role of Elle – no small feat, as she’s a complex character with some tough vocal requirements – understudy Amy Ross looks every bit the leading lady, with charm, charisma and a pair of lungs.

Gareth Gates has matured nicely into a sure-voiced performer and pulls off the right balance of good looks and a mean streak in the role of Warner, Elle’s one-time fiancé who dumps her because she’s too shallow for him.

Iwan Lewis, as the slightly geeky law student who recognises the true Elle, is confident and convincing, while strong cameos from former Brookside star Jennifer Ellison and Lewis Griffiths as Elle’s hairdresser buddy and her hunky delivery guy deliver some of the show’s comedy highlights.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography are always energetic and keep the production moving swiftly from scene to scene, with a couple of big set pieces in the shape of Elle’s courtroom climax and a wonderfully silly Riverdance spoof. Underneath the unashamed froth and fluff of the pink lady, there’s a well-crafted, beautifully executed musical with a lot of heart. Like Elle herself, it’s important not to take the surface superficiality at face value.

MICHAEL DAVIES

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