Cambridge Arts Theatre
10th May 2023
Omigod you guys, ‘Legally Blonde’ is back! The perky uplifting musical (based on the 2001 film that made Reese Witherspoon a global star) is the latest choice for the Cambridge Operatic Society, who bring some Californian sunshine to this week’s rainy skies in a 4-day run at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.
With music and lyrics by husband and wife team Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and a book by Heather Hach, the show follows Malibu blonde Elle Woods (Kaitlin Berridge) after she is unexpectedly dumped by boyfriend Warner (Hector Wheatley). She follows him to Harvard Law, undertaking some challenging classes led by Professor Callahan (Andrew Ruddick), and learns as much as she can in order to win him back and prove herself “serious”. Her bubbly positivity is at immediate odds with the stuffiness of Harvard and she finds herself lost and alienated, but is kept on track by friend Paulette (Amelia Bass) and teaching supervisor Emmett (Michael Broom), who both encourage her to believe in herself. Her successful determination sees her selected to assist on a murder trial defending fitness entrepreneur Brooke Wyndham (Daisy Bates), while finding herself on a journey of self-discovery, ultimately learning that “being true to yourself never goes out of style”.
Co-Directed and choreographed by Helen Petrovna and David Barrett, COS’s ‘Legally Blonde’ is an outstanding effort from a talented company, and they’ve done themselves really proud here. Avoiding the mistakes of the 2022 Regent’s Park production which tried (and failed) to reinvent the show, this production remains true to the soul of the material and lets it heart shine brightly, and is all the better for it. It’s an incredibly feel-good and inspiring show, and the audience feel that in waves. The bubble gum-pop score sounds as infectious as ever and rarely puts a foot wrong (played by a dozen-strong orchestra led by Jennifer Edmonds), and the talented ensemble perfectly capture the “Valley cheerleader” vibe and deliver great energy with some intricate choreography. Lead performances are also impressive, and at times you really have to remind yourself that you’re not watching a professional performance.
‘Legally Blonde’ lives or dies by its Elle as she is the heartbeat of the show, and Kaitlin Berridge makes Elle shine. Funny, vulnerable and strong with an enviable voice and an effortless gift for comedy, she outperforms some professional former Elles and is an absolute star-in-the-making. Amelia Bass also delivers some impressive belting as Paulette, Andrew Ruddick is brilliantly sleazy as Callahan, and Michael Broom makes a hugely likeable Emmett with some really nice vocals. Special mention also needs to go to Daisy Bates who takes on Brooke Wyndham’s massively-challenging “Whipped Into Shape” (singing while doing skipping-rope-ography) and does an excellent job.
‘Legally Blonde’ is pure pink perfection and a huge success for everyone involved with the COS group. You can see how much hard work has gone into it, and the result is a confident and dynamic performance filled with a spirit that even some inevitable opening night technical issues couldn’t dampen in the slightest. With a gem of a leading lady in Berridge, COS’s ‘Legally Blonde’ is criminally good and fashionably fabulous. We can’t wait to see what the group have in store next.
‘Legally Blonde’ runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday 13th May 2023
Performance run time 2 hours 35 minutes including interval