The Lichfield Garrick Youth Theatre’s track record is unrivalled in my experience. I saw their production of Les Miserables by accident and had no idea these were young players – I thought they were all seasoned pros. It remains for me an unforgettable high spot of theatre-going over many years of reviewing.
And now company supremo Oliver Rowe and team have done it again. This sophisticated, faux-naïf take on the high school musical is filled with exquisitely clever moments exploiting transatlantic clichés neatly without a pause. It’s funny, sentimental, with a great storyline, all-singing and all-dancing and with a very smart heart.
So, a ditzy poor girl from nowhere aspires to follow her go-getting fellow to Harvard law school. At first she makes all the mistakes a naive kid would, but she soon straightens up with the help of some great new friends and shows she’s no dumb blonde but has brains as well.
I won’t reveal the outcome – do I need to? – but the journey’s sublime with scene after scene both exploiting and subverting our expectations, while at the same time joyously celebrating America’s great theatrical invention, the musical. Add in some marvellous costumes, state of the art sets, slick as all get-out stage craft, a sharp live orchestra, really inventive choreography, an enormous, fabulous cast and you’ve got one knockout of a show.
Oh – and it’s funny too!
In a huge cast special mention must go to the marvellous Sophie–Rose Dickinson as blonde Elle Woods, the sterling Dominic Sterland as Warner Huntington III who she follows to Harvard, charming Nathan De Giorgi as her knight in shabby armour Emmett Forrest, Sophia Ford as the vivacious Vivienne Kensington and Harry Bayliss, marvellous as the creepily controlled Professor Callaghan.
But there’s always a star, even in this accomplished cast, and here it’s 18 year old Georgia Waldron as hairdresser-with-a-past Paulette Bonefonte who is quite simply a brilliant character actress.
If anything the second half’s even better than the first in the expert hands of director Julie Mallaband, choreographer Jessica Lambert and musical director Oliver Rowe – moving, and yet laugh out loud funny.
This is theatre at its very best – honest, clear, every sinew on that stage aspiring to the stars. The second half department store scene alone is worth the price of admission in a show that’s a series of wonderfully realised set pieces in which no one is performing at less than the top of their game – they make all the sheer brilliance and hard work, obviously from the heart, look effortless.
Awards all round. Truly divine.
Legally Blonde runs until April 29. For tickets phone 01543 412121 or book online at www.lichfieldgarrick.com.