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LEGALLY BLONDE – Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London.

Legally BlondeLegally Blonde is a lot of fun. With a book by Heather Hach, based on the 2001 film, and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe that will be stuck in your head for days, a strong foundation is set for what is a charming and dynamic production. On the surface Legally Blonde is loud and bright and brimming with energy, but these qualities disguise a show that has heart and a good moral message about staying true to yourself and standing up for your beliefs. A show with this much pink on the advertising material can’t surely contain a strong, powerful female character, can it? Well, yes. It can.

Recent graduate Abbie Chambers leads the uniformly strong cast as Elle Woods, fashion student and sorority president from Malibu who, when dumped by her ‘true love’ Warner (Robert Colvin) manages to get accepted to Harvard Law School (“What, like it’s hard?”) to try to win him back. She soon finds, with the help of Emmett (Ross Barnes) that she’s pretty good at the lawyer thing as well. When Professor Callahan (Hugh Osborne) and his team of interns land the job of defending exercise queen Brooke Wyndham, accused of her husband’s murder, Elle has the chance to prove herself.

In a departure from their usual classic revivals, Upstairs at the Gatehouse have created a production that not only does justice to a well loved story but adds little touches that set it apart from the large scale West End production of old. Director John Plews, assistant director Sabrina Carter, and choreographer Anthony Whiteman make great use of the limited space. Quirky features of the staging, set and props born out of necessity to fit the space add an intimate charm.

But it is the cast of 12 (with a cameo from stage manager Izabel Alveres Florence) that really impress. The girls in particular work hard to play two major roles each and deserve praise. Emma Ingram (Kate/Vivienne), Aimee Barrett (Serena/Brooke), Suzie Aries (Margot/Whitney/Judge) and Lily De-La-Hayes (Pilar/Enid) are fantastic. Jodie Jacobs also shines as brash but loveable salon owner Paulette, but there is not a weak link among them. This show could so easily fall flat without the energy and vibrancy it needs, but the tone is spot on.

Elle Woods is a character with surprising depth. She is positive (no pun intended), driven and principled, and one of the strongest female musical characters there is. A strong message is conveyed, disguised by the catchy tunes and witty script, about overcoming stereotypes and succeeding against the odds. But if it is pure entertainment you are after, it more than delivers on that front too.

This show is full of joy and boundless energy and the cast work hard to deliver. Trek up to Highgate and you will be rewarded by a top quality production of a brilliant show. In case you hadn’t got the picture by now, this production of Legally Blonde is just great.

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Reviewed 18/12/2015

By Catherine Duffy

16th December 2015 – 31st January 2016
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London N6 4BD

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