ELLE WOODS IS BACK, PINKER THAN EVER
Full disclosure: transport , domesticity and a hacking cough meant that on this two-show day in the lovely Curve I had to skip out at the interval. But can happily report that Nikolai Foster’s production reanimated the happy memories of the Savoy one which launched Sheridan Smith to fame, while having a cheerful flavour of its own. Pure pleasure, this show: a top-class marshmallow sundae of a night.
Matthew Wright’s clean design uses light themes cleverly: pink and purple for Elle’s princessy Californian world, baize-green and sober reds for Harvard. Lucie Jones as the Malibu girl who follows her ghastly lover to Law School, and beats him even at law, is tuneful and likeable with a vivid energy: she makes the most of the pleasingly ridiculous lines like “I”m not exactly trailer trash, Beyoncé is a neighbour!”.
The ensemble execute violently acrobatic dances, especially in Elle’s dancing application to Harvard: her own vigorous twerking with a terrified, tweedy professor is a particular treat. All the pleasures I remember in Laurence O”Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s lyrics are there, especially the horrified Californian complaint that the East Coast is cold and wet and “all the girls have different noses”. And Ian Kelsey as Callahan makes the most of the predatory, sharkish lawyer’s ‘Blood in the water!”.
So yes, the fun’s all there, and this splendidly ridiculous, rom-com-romp of a musical is well worth its revival. It also suits this fine theatre: there must have been some qualms about Ishy Din’s WW1 WIPERS, which in possibly the most perfect contrast any two-house theatre has ever run plays at the same time in the big studio which lies back-to-back with the main theatre. Very loud shellfire could have leaked through. It didn’t. Not even faintly.
And heaven be praised, those confined by complex long distance travel like me, trailing sadly out at the interval, do not miss the real top hit of the show, one I have been singing to myself on every trip to Ireland since. Tupele Dorgu as the yearning beautician Paulette delivers, to perfection, her longing for an Irish lover : “All Irish men are like heroes / They’re descended from poets and kings / So I swore I’d get married in IReland / In a wedding like Lord of the Rings”” For that alone it’s worth the drive to Leicester, and I left with regret, though knowing that she would find her Irishman in the end.
Oh, and the lapdog behaves. Though Jones perhaps wisely does not attempt Sheridan Smith’s famous chihuahua-leaps-into-handbag moment: Smith once told me that the only way to ensure that was to secrete many, many pieces of meat around her pink-clad person, and she smelt quite gamey by the interval…
box office 0116 242 3595 to 14 May