Legally Blonde

There are lessons for the Bar in this musical, believes David Wurtzel.

Legally Blonde (Savoy Theatre) proves that good new musicals can still be written. They can also be performed by your favourite television stars who are indeed able to sing, dance and do dialogue (with occasional breathlessness) on stage. The combination is perfect: the women steal the show, the men provide the eye candy and the audience, who greet it with remarkable knowingness, gives it a standing ovation. You do not have to have seen the movie and I suspect that I am glad that I didn’t. It is easier to suspend disbelief in a theatre than in the cinema. Legally Blonde belongs in a theatre. Luckily, the entire cast led by Sheridan Smith with wonderful star quality and timing, plays it straight, though with gays, a lesbian and sexual harassment, straight may not be quite the word.

There are even lessons for the Bar in this show. Elle barnstorms her way into Harvard. Merit plays little part in this. However, she is blonde and beautiful, which puts her into the “minorities” category. She is also in love with one of the other students—alas, with creepy Warner (boy band star Duncan James). Perhaps his East Coast preppiness might once have seemed exotic to her, compared to the Malibu surfer dudes she grew up with. Finally, instead of writing an entrance essay she performs a glitzy song and dance routine. Chambers would undoubtedly find this a break from the usual pupillage rounds.

Elle’s performance in court, on the other hand, demonstrates the true advocate’s ability to understand and explore the motivation of the witness. While others sing, “is he gay or European?” she already knows the answer. Barristers who might otherwise sneer at the show should ask themselves whether they would know that a woman would not take a shower on the same day that she gets a perm. English law students would be struck by the fact that a law professor moonlights as a trial advocate, taking his students along with him to court, and they would undoubtedly cheer when the apprentices take over the case, facilitated by the fact that the defendant is paying privately.

An intellectual journey

Most of all the show has the lesson of girl power. Speaking as a minority (ie male) member of the audience, Legally Blonde is a fine example of women helping each other and of women rising to the top. The theme at the end is stated to be “be true to yourself” but that is incorrect. You cannot be true to what you don’t yet know about yourself. What Elle learns is that she can be taken seriously in her own right. Sad to say, her intellectual journey only begins because, OMG, a man throws away her fashion magazine and tells her to open a law book. But hey, it is only a musical.

Author details: 
David Wurtzel

David practised at the criminal Bar for 27 years and is a door tenant at 18 Red Lion Court. Prior to his retirement, he was a consultant in the CPD department at City Law School and consultant editor of Counsel. David is a member of the Counsel Editorial Board.