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REVIEW: Legally Blonde (LWMS, Royal Spa Centre)

If further proof were needed that Warwickshire local theatre has its own stage musical superstar, this is it.

Her name is Nikki Claire Cross and she’s a dainty, pint-sized package of pulsating energy and vivacity. Her combined talents cover singing, dancing and acting with a flair that’s little short of London West End quality. So it’s no surprise how effectively she carries off the leading role in this high-octane American musical with its zany comedy, belting dance routines and relentless pace.

For Leamington and Warwick Musical Society it’s a bold step into a modern musical phenomenon which is a kind of Grease on heat. And for director Stephen Duckham and choreographer Aaron Gibson it’s a triumph of style and ingenuity. They are, however, partially let down by an acoustics problem which deadens many of the lyrics in the first half despite fine musical direction by Matt Flint.

This is not helped by the show’s somewhat awkward construction, being mostly sung-through in the early stages until adopting a more conventional pattern later on. But sheer company exuberance shines through and by the second act all systems are truly firing and the real skill and wit of the writing come into their own.

While Nikki Claire Cross continues to raise the bar in terms of performance quality, it is no one-woman show. There is terrific comedy work from Joanne Cheung as lovelorn hairdresser Paulette, including a splendid Ireland solo, and Hannah Hampson as a tough-talking trial defendant harbouring a guilty secret. Add to these some hilarious eye-catching cameos from Ash Spall and Lucy Maxwell and strong support from Sam Henshaw and Phil Spencer.

In a good-natured nod towards more controversial elements, a breezy Gay or European number is a collective company joy. And through it all is the constant swirl of fine ensemble vigour and versatility.

For all-out size and spectacle, this Legally Blonde is a hair-raisingly enjoyable experience. It’s also a huge credit to local theatre for setting such a high standard.

Peter McGarry, Leamington Observer

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