Was it a positive verdict for Legally Blonde or did the critics get serious?
The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre has returned with a new production of the hit musical
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
"Lucy Moss, the co-writer and co-director of Six, and multi-nominated for Tony Awards, has done something quite remarkable. While upping the fun and the fizz, she has also made it an inclusive power-house of a musical, one that embraces difference and diversity in its casting and its attitudes, while simultaneously celebrating a world that can change if people stand together. When Elle is on the verge of quitting Harvard, it's not love that holds her there, it's a woman who steps forward and tells her she is great."
"The easy, good-hearted inclusivity of the production, its sheer pleasure in its own sense of fun, means it gets away with numbers such as the hilarious "Gay or European" without a hint of being patronising or dismissive. On its own terms, the whole thing succeeds with magnificent, all-embracing confidence. I had the best of times."
Nicole Vassell, The Independent
"This production of Legally Blonde is as fresh as the air it's performed in and easily marks one of the most inclusive shows I've ever seen. It proves that there's no need to stick rigidly to past versions to make a great musical great once again.
"Really, there's nothing to indicate that Elle Woods, nor Emmett, nor Paulette or even preppy princess Vivienne (Vanessa Fisher) ever had to be strictly played by white actors – so why has it taken so long for a major run to do otherwise? When casting directors think outside the box and create shows with the same variety that exists in the real world, theatre can really dazzle."
Clive Davis, The Times
"Underneath her blonde hairpiece, Courtney Bowman is irrepressibly sparky and sensuous, her voice is strong and she delivers some soulful, Beyoncé-ish touches in Ellen Kane's vivacious choreography. Sixty-odd years ago, the great jazz and blues singer Dinah Washington raised eyebrows by wearing a blonde wig; Bowman lives in an era when barriers are much more fluid.
"There's a mix of they/she/he pronouns in the list of cast members. The more important point here is that, even allowing for a few rough edges, the performances do justice to the material."
Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
"This is a tongue-in-cheek production that comes with a megawattage of kitsch and to some degree sends up the genre of the high-school musical. Characters are pancake flat, reaching beyond stereotype into cartoonishness: the Harvard clique is dressed in muted shades of browns and greens while Elle's world is a blinding pink mono shimmer. Her handbag dog, Bruiser, is here a man-sized creature, played by Liam McEvoy in body sock, pink belt and pert tail who looks like a stray from the latest CGI Cats."
Tim Bano, The Stage
"A phenomenal skipping scene opens the second act – with cheerleading-inflected choreography by Ellen Kane. It's the perfect example of the massive energy and bright, bursting fizz that makes the production explode off the stage.
"Occasionally there's a nagging sense that Moss' big, brassy, celebratory production sits crosswise with its material, muddling the point rather than amplifying it, but that doesn't really matter when it's so much fun."
Simon Buttom Attitude
"Another stand-out is Nadine Higgin as beautician Paulette, who sings a rib-tickling ode to 'Ireland' and has such an amazing set of pipes she'd blow the roof off the theatre if it had one.
"And Lauren Drew as fitness guru Brooke does a high-energy act two opener with a skipping rope, flanked by just-as-athletic dancers, that beggars belief."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"I'm going to be honest, I saw the film once and the musical once and thought they were both absolutely fine examples of the romcom genre. But if Moss's pathologically knowing take sacrifices some of the emotional acuity of Reese Witherspoon's performance, then I reckon we'll probably live.
"Still, after a first half so singularly unafraid to do its own thing that I was mostly sat gawping in vague, is-this-really-happening befuddlement, the second felt more exposing of the shortcomings of both director and the musical itself."
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
"The story looks dated and formulaic now. Elle propels herself into Harvard to win back her ex. She overcomes patrician derision and a #MeToo moment by being herself, winning a court case through her knowledge of haircare, fashion, and the fact that any man who doesn't fancy her must be not straight, or at least not bisexual. In the hilarious number "Gay or European?" the clothes, mannerisms and grooming regime of a pivotal courtroom witness are analysed to determine his sexuality or nationality. I'm slightly amazed the song has survived, apparently intact, from the 2010 London production, which starred Sheridan Smith.