The Strand’s been an interesting venue for theater for me – some big winners (Drowsy Chaperone), some limp squibs. Given the hoopla down the street for Love Never Dies, I felt like it was kind of funny that, rather than trying to go to a preview of that show and get a blog post that would really boost my stats (the West End Whingers must be having kittens about their traffic), I was, instead, going to see a show that I thought I might actually enjoy: Legally Blonde.
Some three months or so back it had been dubbed the rightful successor to Hairspray in the “feel good” department; and me, I am all about a fun, lighthearted musical. However, I was suspicious about the comment that it didn’t have particularly interesting music; this is pretty much a requirement for a good musical for me. But the choreography was supposed to be fun, and, well, it sounded like a perfect birthday night out for my friend K, so late, late in the game, I finally made it to the show.
My tickets, purchased off of LastMinute.com, were real dogs at 40 pounds a pop; third to last row in the back half of the balcony, with a bit of the stage cut off by the overhanging ceiling. Grrr. Now, I didn’t actually miss anything because of this, but there was piles and piles of auditorium in front of us, and to me 40 pounds is actually a really major theater expenditure. And the seats were crap. I was not happy about this: Happy Birthday, here’s your binoculars. Bah.
As for the show, well, I wish I was more enthusiastic about it. The story is pretty much the same as the movie: blonde Californian follows her boyfriend to Harvard Law School to prove she’s “serious;” comedy ensues. It’s actually a really nice story with an upbeat kick to it. The songs do flow naturally, the lyrics are occasionally clever and easy to understand, but …
I don’t know what to say. The show goes down nicely; I’d say it’s very suited to hens’ nights and entertaining out of town visitors. But it’s not a brilliant musical. Sheridan Smith is really very good, and this is a great star turn for her, but … it kind of ultimately seemed like disposable entertainment to me. I walked out and forgot about it. I didn’t remember any of the tunes; while there were a few gags here and there that I laughed about, there was just no great raging genius of “wow” happening to make me care. It was like a giant musical Twinkie: sweet and full of fluff but not very satisfying. My female friends loved it, despite the bad seats; I felt kinda sad that I hadn’t but can’t deny the truth. Oh well. Some day I’ll get a musical that makes me go “wow” again, and chances are it will either involve men in Victorian drag or Hannibal Lecter.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, March 4th, 2010. Legally Blonde is booking until February 2011, so I guess they’re not particularly afraid of my grumping.)