Stan Arnaud saw Legally Blonde the Musical at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
Eden Court Theatre’s new chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman looked a happy man as he stood in the foyer watching an excited and expectant audience flock in for the opening night of the latest smash hit Broadway and West End production to arrive at the Inverness venue.
With ladies very much in the majority, they all-but filled the theatre as the curtain rose on a week-long run of Legally Blonde The Musical.
And they were treated to a superb evening’s all-singing, all-dancing feel-good entertainment, delivered with style, sparkle and energy by a cast sprinkled with well-known faces from the television talent show and soap opera world – as well as two dogs.
Based on the 2001 hit movie, Legally Blonde, starring Reece Witherspoon, the “pink fest” stage version of the romantic comedy barely pauses to take a breath from the opening number, Omigod You Guys, though 17 more songs to the last, Find My Way, and the show’s rousing finale.
Even an unscheduled five minute break when the curtain came down again because of “technical difficulties” shortly after the interval did nothing to put the cast off their energetic stride or spoil the enthusiastic audience’s enjoyment
The show tells the story of college sweetheart and homecoming queen Elle Woods, for whom taking no for an answer is just not an option.
When her boyfriend dumps her for someone more serious, Elle heads for Harvard Law School and – sticking through various setbacks to the maxim that being true to yourself never goes out of style – eventually upstages him. Among the challenges she overcomes along the way is a career threating pass by her law professor, which had a refreshed relevance in the era of the Me Too movement.
Lucie Jones was commanding and funny in the lead role, switching effortlessly from ditzy to determined throughout her rollercoaster journey. The Welsh singer and actress first came to prominence in the 2009 series of X Factor and last year represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest, singing Never Give Up on You. Her sidekick in many of the scenes, eliciting regular “awws” from the audience was a tiny Chihuahua, called Bruiser.
Bill Ward – known to soap fans as the late James Barton of Emmerdale and Charlie Stubbs of Coronation street – was villainously vain as her Harvard legal eagle and would-be seducer.
Possibly the true star of the evening, though, was the splendid Rita Simons playing heart of gold trailer trash hairdresser Paulette Bonafonte. The diminutive actress, best known for playing Roxy Mitchell in Eastenders, put in a huge and hilarious performance, guiding Elle towards her destiny while on her own quest for true love.
Aiding her and adding to the comedy were bulldog Rufus, and hunky delivery driver Kyle B O’Boyle, played with gusto by Ben Harlow. A Riverdance pastiche that followed Paulette and Kyle’s discovery they were made for each other got some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hatch, Legally Blonde the Musical has earned seven Tony nominations and was nominated for five Laurence Olivier Awards, winning three, including best new musical. And its acclaim continued with a standing ovation from the delighted Inverness audience.
Legally Blond the Musical is at Eden Court until Saturday, May 12.