OMG: "Legally Blonde: The Musical" has warmed the hearts of London's crusty theater critics.
The stage show, based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, tells the story of Elle Woods, a bubbly blonde from Los Angeles who discovers her inner strength at Harvard Law School. The show earned a lukewarm reception on Broadway, where it ran for a year and a half before closing in October 2008.
"Blonde" opened Wednesday at London's Savoy Theatre after a month of previews that saw large, enthusiastic and female-dominated audiences embracing its brand of frivolous fun.
Despite themselves, British critics were largely won over, too.
"I tried, I really tried to hate this show, but resistance is futile," wrote Charles Spencer in Thursday's Daily Telegraph, praising the show as "light, fast, fun and frothy."
"The stage show has its tongue in its cheek throughout, it knows it is ridiculous and infantile, and celebrates the fact with knowing wit," he said.
The Independent's Paul Taylor declared the musical "ridiculously enjoyable from start to finish," and a big improvement on the movie. He said the lyrics by Heather Hach were "unflaggingly funny" and the score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin full of "brassiness, bite, joie de vivre, sheer cheek, and even the odd strain of sadness."
The Times' Benedict Nightingale was another convert, won over by the show as well as the enthusiasm of the audience, who "cheered, whistled and made my cavils seem precious."
The Guardian's Michael Billington was skeptical — dubbing the show "preposterous" — but still preferred the stage version to the movie.
"The plot is pap, the musical unmemorable, the dancing often hefty," said The Daily Mail's often-contrarian critic Quentin Letts, although even he acknowledged that some of the lyrics were "almost worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan."
Like others, he saw a new stage star in Sheridan Smith, who plays Elle. Until now Smith was best known for roles in TV comedies including "Gavin and Stacey" and "Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps."
Besides her singing and dancing, Billington said "Her true star quality lies in a sense of mischief."
Spencer said Smith had "vitality, warmth, great comic timing and sudden moments of touching vulnerability."
The cast also includes Duncan James, a member of boy band Blue, as Elle's Harvard-bound boyfriend, and Jill Halfpenny as a lovelorn hairdresser.
The show was a box office hit even before Wednesday's opening. Critics said they could see the appeal.
"Oh my god, I'm like so totally going again," said The Independent's Taylor.
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