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Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts
Thursday, 19 October 2017

War Horse (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review

War Horse (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review
Thursday, 19 October 2017
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War Horse (UK Tour)
Bristol Hippodrome
Reviewed on Wednesday 18th September 2017 by Isobelle Desbrow

On the 10th anniversary since their first show, I was lucky enough to go and watch War Horse. The play is emotion filled and the stunning story telling through the music and ensemble work make the show a must see.

The first act tells the story of Albert training his horse, Joey who we see grow from a foal, to a riding horse, to a farm horse and finally to a war horse. Joey is controlled by 3 puppeteers: the head, heart and hind. This allows the puppet to mimic and move as if it were a real horse, something that is not easy by any means. Bob Fox’s spectacular folk voice helps tell the story through music,adding the perfect amount music to accompany the drama onstage. The cast are amazing as they all play multiple characters but if I hadn’t have looked throughly at the program I would never had known, as each character on stage had a different accent and characteristics. This show truly highlights the amazing work that can be produced by an ensemble cast. 


Thomas Dennis as Albert brought the perfect mix of innocence and will to fight for what he believes in: saving and bringing Joey home from the war. His portrayal of Albert was emotional and moving he deserves credit for his acting talents. 

At the end of the first act we see the beginning of the war and Albert going off to find Joey. These scenes were powerful, compelling, honest and emotional, showing the audience another aspect of World War 1, which I had never seen before.

Something that I haven’t mentioned yet but is off massive importance for the story telling aspect of War Horse is the large projection on to a cloud above the stage; throughout the story, drawings and animations are shown. This adds another dimension to the story, and without spoiling the show for those who haven’t seen it without these images the story wouldn’t be as complete.



Act 2 is spectacularly beautiful and sad. We are shown both the loss on the home front and the front line. However instead of just being shown the fighting aspects we are also shown how the Germans used the horses to move machinery around and pull carts, we follow Albert and Topthorn on their journey through France and whether or not they get the happy ending they deserve. We also see the cruel side when the horses go lame they are no longer required, something that although normal is still shocking to see.


“The puppets in the show are only wood, however it is our imaginations that make them real.” This is how the play was described by Tom Morris at the end of yesterday’s special 10th anniversary show, and I believe this is the perfect way of describing the complexity and beauty of War Horse.

I don’t want to give too much more away but if you have the opportunity, go and watch War Horse- it is not to be missed. 
Thursday, 12 October 2017

Hair, The Vaults | Review

Hair, The Vaults | Review
Thursday, 12 October 2017
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Hair
The Vaults
Reviewed on Wednesday 11th October 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

First premiering on Broadway in 1967, Hair is about hippies, the anti-war movement, LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, women’s equality and so much more; themes which sadly still resonate with us 50 years later.

Although I’d never seen a production of Hair, many of the songs were familiar to me and I felt as if I’d almost been born knowing them! Whilst I wasn’t part of the ‘Hair Generation’ (I wasn’t born for another 30 years) I feel that this production has reinvented it and definitely made it perfect for my generation as well as those younger than me. The setting is historical but it’s been cleverly entwined with the modern world and the parallels to the youth of today to make it extremely pertinent.

The Vaults at Waterloo have been transformed into a colourful, relaxed, hippy den which provides the perfect vibe and atmosphere for the performance and certainly puts everyone in the right mind set for what they're about to experience. It feels immersive but not over the top.

Hair is musically brilliant, it's songs have been performed by some huge artists and it's become a source of inspiration for many composers. The rhythmic music pairs with the story wonderfully and manages to be funny, powerful and clever all at once. These feelings are of course exemplified by the outstanding performances from the cast, especially during the finale: 'Let The Sun Shine In' which becomes a sort of battle cry and is really very moving.

Leading the plot we have Robert Metson as Claude who's been enlisted into the army. His vocals are strong, he gives a heartfelt performance and shows his transition from the free life to the life he lives for his country extremely well. Fresh from his stint in Yank!, Andy Coxon takes on the role of the carefree, larger than life Berger with grace and ease and is especially funny during his moments of audience interaction. Laura Johnson brings an innocence to Sheila which is touching to see and really draws you into her character and her rendition of 'Easy To Be  Hard' was particularly memorable.

A special mention must go to Natalie Green (Cassie/Mom) who's solo and ensemble vocal moments are completely out of this world. Her clear, powerful voice both when belting and  singing in a more classical style is faultless, her natural performance draws the eye at various points and she's a joy to watch on stage. The entire cast are great and work seamlessly together to create the idyllic and harmonious feeling.

Hair is more than a show, its an experience. This production is fresh and striking and certain to be loved by audiences during its run. So let the sun shine into your life and go see this show for a night of youthful, uninhibited freedom, expression and love. After all, the world could do with a little more love these days!

Hair runs at The Vaults until 3rd December 2017

photo credit: Claire Bilyard

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Five Reasons to See Legally Blonde on Tour

Five Reasons to See Legally Blonde on Tour
Tuesday, 10 October 2017
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Last night I visited the New Victoria theatre to see the UK tour of Legally Blonde. Seeing as I've already seen the show and reviewed it here, I thought I'd do a bit of a different post and tell you some of my top reasons to see it. 

The production is great and all my thoughts were pretty much the same during my second viewing; the only difference was that Rebecca Stenhouse was playing Elle. Whilst I'm not re-reviewing I have to talk about Rebecca for a little bit. Her debut performance as Elle was completely outstanding, her voice sounded beautiful and she perfectly embodied the role. If I hadn't known she was the understudy I would have noticed zero difference or nervousness; Rebecca owned the stage and won over the audience with her heartfelt performance. 

So now my moment of gushing is over, lets get on with the reasons to see the show...

It's Feel-Good Fantasticness: Legally Blonde is brilliant because it's exactly what it claims to be: a feel good, pink and positive show. So many shows I've seen recently have been depressing or try and be dramatic, moving or life-changing so it's really a breath of fresh air to see something fun and lighthearted. You'll leave the theatre smiling and feeling great- what more can you ask for?

Dogs: Need I say more? Who doesn't love a cute little pup scuttling across the stage? Whilst they're not in the show a lot, their moments in the spotlight gain "aw's" all around and are as cute as can be!

The Music is Crazily Catchy: I think Legally Blonde is a pretty underrated musical, I don't really hear people talking about it much, but they should! The music is catchy, upbeat and has so many witty lines. There are various styles and so many wonderful vocal moments. You'll definitely have the tunes stuck in your head.

The Performances are Brilliant: A great show with rubbish performances is pretty pointless to see, luckily they're fantastic in this production. I've gone into detail in my review but the cast are super strong and very attractive as the larger than life characters. Especially great is Helen Petrovna's 'Whipped into Shape' which makes me out of breath just watching!

It Has Lots of Heart: The story of Elle following her man to Harvard and realising she's more than a typical Malibu blonde is sweet and heartwarming. The romance, drama and humour makes you root for the characters and provides a fantastic night out. 

So there (right there!) we have five reasons to see Legally Blonde. To sum up, it's a fun, lighthearted, brilliant show which you will definitely enjoy. As the days get shorter and colder, Legally Blonde is precisely the pop of warmth and light that you need.

Legally Blonde runs at the New Victoria Theatre until October 14th before continuing on its tour.
Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Addams Family (UK Tour), Grand Opera House | Review

The Addams Family (UK Tour), Grand Opera House | Review
Thursday, 5 October 2017
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The Addams Family (UK Tour)
The Grand Opera House, Belfast
Reviewed on Tuesday October 3rd by Damien Murray

This Irish and UK premiere tour production of the musical comedy, The Addams Family was an entertaining and fast-paced production of Andrew Lippa’s funny musical about a less than conventional family and its ancestors.

Right from the off, it was obvious that this was not going to be ‘One Normal Night’, as – during the overture – a finger-clicking hand appeared through the letter box; the hand of an unknown person (in this case, probably a ‘stage hand’!!).

Mainly played out on the superbly old and run-down eerie mansion befitting to such a weird and spooky family, the functional set designs, with moveable staircases and great use of the two side balconies, helped greatly with the good pace of this production.

Despite the family’s appearance, values and lifestyle, this atmospheric piece is not so much scary as it is a funny musical with great one-liners that, thankfully, are never just throw away lines for the experienced cast.

We were then introduced to a mixed bag of weird ancestors who looked almost normal when compared to the central family of the piece.


They made up a well-used ensemble, which, despite its relative lack of numbers, produced some excellent harmonies during choral pieces (e.g. 'One Normal Night' and 'Move Toward The Darkness') and provided solid support throughout in vocals, dance, movement, visuals and as a distraction during scene changes.

While the Act 1 finale, 'Full Disclosure' (Part 2) was a great production number, the orchestra and cast rose to the challenge here with the varied and difficult score, which - apart from the variety of tempo changes from one song to the next - had to cope with a degree of musical fragmentation caused by lots of start/stops throughout many songs and challenging underscoring.

While the great musicality of the tango rhythms made numbers like 'Trapped', 'Secrets' and 'Not Today' stand out here, it was the orchestra’s sheer accuracy of performance and the visual impact of the dancers in the production number, 'Tango De Amour', that combined to make this an irresistible musical highlight.

'Pulled' was another highlight because of Wednesday’s strong vocal performance, while the flamenco flavoured music of 'Let’s Live Before We Die' impressed and 'But Love' provided a little vaudeville-style distraction between scenes.

There were some soft ballads in the varied score, including the gentle, 'The Moon And Me', while 'Move Toward The Darkness' was unusual in that it is rare that a ballad is used as a finale number, but it did allow for some great choral work.It was good to see the reprise of the up-tempo, 'When You’re An Addams', being used to send all home happy after the ballad finale.

Choreography was a strong element in this production and the concepts were well-executed right from the opening production number, 'When You’re An Addams', when we knew that there was going to be no problems with dance, as this song’s varied choreography included lots of arm movements and samples of line dancing, the bunny hop and the twist. The moon ballet was well-staged ('The Moon And Me'), while it was a nice touch to use a ‘young’ Wednesday to highlight the emotions of the song during Happy Sad.


The nightmarish family in this macabre musical was effortlessly brought to life by the talented principals, including Cameron Blakely as the Latino-looking and hen-pecked husband, Gomez, who supplied some touching moments in the song, 'Happy Sad', yet also managed to deliver the song’s humorous lines on cue, while always maintaining the right comic timing to get the laughs when needed. 

Samantha Womack as the very much in-charge and matriarchal Morticia was both tall and elegant and looked the part in her long black ankle-length dress and long black hair like Crystal Gale. Boasting dead-pan looks that could kill, this was a very confident performance from a total all-rounder with a great voice and good stage presence who perfectly captured her character’s dry wit. She also proved to be a most impressive dancer, especially in the song and dance number, 'Just Around The Corner', which allowed her to show her macabre emotions of joy.

However, for me, the star of the show was Carrie Hope Fletcher’s manipulative daughter, Wednesday. This amazingly talented girl is a strong performer with a great voice and real stage presence and this was highlighted in her performance throughout, but especially during the ‘coming of age’ song, 'Pulled'.

In the absence of Les Dennis, due to illness, his understudy, Scott Paige, was more than deserving of this role and impressed greatly both in his acting, comic timing and vocal ability, especially as he was acting so much ‘out of age’ in this part. Despite playing the loveably crazy uncle, Fester, he provided lovely vocals during his gentle ballad, 'The Moon And Me' and as the show’s narrator character.

Dickon Gough had a dream role as the ever-growling zombie-like butler, Lurch, and played one of musical theatre’s great non-speaking parts exceptionally well, while Grant McIntyre, as Pugsley, played the younger brother with a grown-up attitude well.

There was good support from Charlotte Page’s fully-disclosed Alice, Dale Rapley’s typical American parent, Mal, and his college student son, Lucas, played by Oliver Ormson, while Valda Aviks’ eccentric Grandma was good, but I would like to have seen more of her character’s outspoken and irreverent attitude. 

Perfectly-timed sound effects and special visual effects like the thunder and lightening, the monster in the box and the use of individual ancestors in the portrait painting all added to the success of this slick production.

Thanks to the brilliant lighting, costumes, props, make-up and hair, this was a visually stunning show from its strong opening to its unusual ballad ending … absolutely ‘finger-clicking good’ throughout!

The Addams Family runs at the Grad Opera House, Belfast until October 7th.


Photo credit: Matt Martin 
Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Sunset Boulevard (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review

Sunset Boulevard (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review
Wednesday, 4 October 2017
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Sunset Boulevard (UK Tour)
Edinburgh Playhouse
Reviewed on Tuesday 3rd October 2017 by Andrew Cowan 

Sunset Boulevard is a thrilling ride through the film industry of mid-century America, filled with the song, dance and cultural ephemera of the era. It’s an intoxicating spectacle that is both entrancing and, in parts, exhausting.

The production takes place in Hollywood on the cusp of the 1940s and 1950s. The show’s intermission pointedly falls at a New Year’s party in 1949 in a manner symbolic of the story’s main theme of the passing of one era to the next.

The time period and location is a particularly rich seam for the set design which, especially in the opening moments, is a flurry of transitions. The audience is taken from the gates of Paramount studio to production lots, writer’s rooms and soundstages in the space of a matter of minutes. Furthermore, artifacts of film production are woven intelligently into the set throughout. One driving scene in particular employed footage of busy Los Angeles streets projected behind the protagonist’s vehicle while shadowed cameramen revolved around him in a way that recalls the early special effects of the time. It could easily have been confusing, the fact that it wasn’t is testament to the care with which each aspect of the set had been considered.

As one might expect given the story, the music throughout the show was constantly evocative of the period and brilliantly performed by the band. One aspect to note is that your enjoyment of the show may in part depend on how you feel about Andrew Lloyd Webber, who supplies the music in the production and isn’t always for everyone.


Danny Mac as protagonist Joe Gillis was well cast and particularly excelled at both the breezy 50s dialog exchanged with members of the supporting cast and his rendition of the title song ‘Sunset Boulevard’. Predictably a cheer went up around the hall as the actor, who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, danced a tango. His interaction with romantic interest Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer was a touch lacking, but this relationship is not really the centrepiece of the story and as such both the songs and dialog were a little perfunctory. Special mention should be given to both the singing and acting of Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling, who deflty straddled the line between chilling and endearing and very nearly stole the show. However Ria Jones as the needy and demented Norma Desmond was superb throughout, delivering a deeply poignant performance.

Flashdance (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Flashdance (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

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Flashdance (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 3rd October 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

Based on the 1983 film (which I've never seen), Flashdance is the story of Alex Owens, a welder who dreams of being a dancer but has had no formal training. She plucks up the courage to apply to the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy and also meets a new love interest on the way who just so happens to be the boss' son. 

There are a number of side plots, like the mechanics facing jobs losses, Gloria being drawn into a seedy drug filled world and her boyfriend Jimmy attempting to make it as a comedian in New York but these feel a little unnecessary. They're obviously added in to pad out the show but I felt it would have flowed better without them as they're not explored enough to add much. 

But lets be honest, people don't go to Flashdance for the plot. They're there for the big money numbers and nostalgia for the classics they remember, something which the show certainly provides. The instantly recognisable 'Maniac', 'What a Feeling' and 'Gloria' have the audience excited and invested whilst most of the other songs are not particularly memorable. That's not to say that the vocal performances aren't brilliant though. Ben Adams gives a strong performance as the misguided, rich boy, Nick Hurley. His popstar vocals are not those typically heard in musical theatre but they work well in the show and his his rendition of 'Enough' was especially good.

Joanne Clifton is outstanding as Alex. Obviously she's known for her dance skills but seeing them life and with so much energy is spectacular to see on stage. Vocally she is also strong and her acting stood up well within the cast and she is a very solid lead. I was particularly impressed by Hollie-Ann Lowe who showed a number of sides to Gloria as well as some lovely vocal moments. A special mention must go to Colin Kiyani (Jimmy) who's voice is beautiful and I got major Ben Platt vibes during 'Where We Belong'.

Matt Cole's choreography is definitely the highlight of the production; tight and sleek throughout it provides some wow moments of impact. One thing I didn't like was the use of click tracks during some of the ensemble dance numbers such as 'I Love Rock and Roll'. I completely understand how demanding it is to do the energetic choreography at the same time as singing but it just felt a little obvious to me and could have been covered up more. However, the performances were still great.

This is definitely a feel good musical, whilst it does look at some darker themes, they are definitely not what you focus on. It's more of a drama with music but the energetic and sharp performances are enough to draw you in and will certainly leave you tapping your feet!


Flashdance runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until October 7th

In Conversation With... Natasha Langridge | Interview

In Conversation With... Natasha Langridge | Interview

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Following on from Memoirs of a Tree, Natasha Langridge returns withIn Memory of Leaves. This monologue describes Natasha’s experience living in a block of flats on the Portobello Road council estate, which is being torn down by developers, and how all of her surroundings and green spaces are rapidly changing. The monologue also explores her work in Calais with the Occupy movement and the sadness people feel when they have to say goodbye to "home".



Did you grow up writing or was there something or someone which inspired you to write?

I’ve always written but I never showed anyone until after I’d started acting. I loved interpreting other writers work but I found that I had something to say too so I took my courage and showed my own work to other writer friends who, luckily, encouraged me to get it out there.



As well as writing, you perform and direct. How do you juggle each string to your bow and how do you smoothly transition from one to another?

I’ve got a very nice hat for each job and I look forward to wearing each one. I’m not sure I do anything smoothly except drinking wine.



Have you got any other quirky, hidden passions you’d like to pursue?

I went on a sailing trip recently. On an old Thames Sailing Barge .The main mast was 70ft high. I watched the mate climb the rigging. I helped unfurl the sail. I learnt how to tie a bowline knot. I helped steer the ship. I watched the moon rise up over the sea. I quite fancy being a pirate.



What’s your writing setup like? Do you have a certain playlist or drink you always have with you?

My vape. I move around to different places in my flat with my laptop. Or I sit on the floor with huge amounts of scrunched up paper strewn around me. Writing is terrifying. Like walking a tightrope.



In Memory of Leaves is extremely personal, did you feel a sense of pressure putting such an important story out into the world?

I felt a sense of compulsion. I’d just seen a beautiful park beneath my window massacred and felt I had to write about it and then shout about it. I am bearing witness to the ‘regeneration’ of my estate and of London and I have to tell its story-or my part in that story.



What’s the number one message you want people to take away from the show?

Live. From your heart. Speak out against injustice. We are living in a world run by psychopaths. We are living in a society based on a psychopathic model. Do whatever you can to protect love, all life and community. 



Finally, what’s your number one piece of advice for anyone hoping to get into the performing industry, be it writing, performing, directing or anything else?


Do it. Don’t wait for anyone else. Or for the phone to ring. Get some good training and make your own work. 


Thank you Natasha for taking the time to do this interview. In Memory of Leaves is being performed on a wide beam barge across three London locations. More information can be found at: https://goo.gl/QEXSrf
Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Dreamboats and Petticoats (UK Tour), Theatre Royal | Review

Dreamboats and Petticoats (UK Tour), Theatre Royal | Review
Tuesday, 3 October 2017
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Dreamboats and Petticoats (UK Tour)
Theatre Royal, Brighton
Reviewed on Monday October 2nd 2017 by Melodie Hornett
★★★

Dreamboats and Petticoats at Brighton’s Theatre Royal was a joyful explosion of fun from the start. No long overtures, just a brief setting of the backstory before immediately coming to life with upbeat music from the whole cast. The set was vibrant and made excellent use of the space available on-stage whilst overcoming the lack of wing space seamlessly. The bumper cars used in several scenes worked brilliantly, operating smoothly, really indicative of the era and setting, and looked like the cast were really enjoying themselves. Carole Todd’s effective choreography worked very well, demonstrating skill whilst maintaining the authenticity of the setting.

Alistair Higgins and Elizabeth Carter were well matched in all areas as Bobby and Laura, vocally they blended well, they played an idyllic and convincing couple who looked great together. A particularly beautiful moment was their rendition of ‘Let It Be Me’. Alastair Hill could have done a little more with his representation of Norman, perhaps a little more arrogance was required to define him however he demonstrated a powerful voice that was well suited to the repertoire. Laura Darton’s Sue was superbly portrayed, with her strong vocals demonstrating a rich and powerful tone whilst her obvious dance ability and vibrant sex-appeal made her incredibly satisfying to behold. Vocally she shone out in ‘Shakin’ All Over’ and ‘Sweet Nothin’s’. Her sidekick Donna played by Gracie Johnson was a pleasing character with some delightful moments adding to the action of the leads. Again, she was well matched with on-stage partner Ray, played by David Luke, who presented some entertaining comic action with a solid voice which carried well over the band. Jimmy Johnston played a very likeable Phil, an ageing voice that still has some fantastic money notes, particularly in 'Shop Around’.



There was something truly exciting about the actor-musicians interchanging between their roles in the live, on-stage band and characters within the story. It was seamlessly done and great to see such an array of talent - these were a team of performers strong in a number of stage disciplines. Consistently solid performances from all cast. Chloe Edwards-Wood competently took the spotlight a number of times with her energetic saxophone playing. She and Lauren Chinery made a charismatic sax duo, but credit to all band members.

The main criticism of the show for me was audio balance; the instrumentalists sounded fantastic throughout, however at times some of the vocalists were lost in the audio mix due to having thinner-toned voices. Whilst being enjoyable to listen to in the more intimate moments, Higgins, Carter and Johnson were frequently difficult to make out when the band was in full swing. I felt that there could have been more vocal diversity amongst the cast, rather than what felt like a collection of similar sounding voices. 


This was a show that the audience clearly enjoyed from the start, with patrons singing along and tapping their feet to familiar tunes. It had a real feel-good factor and a pleasing plot conclusion. The energy from the cast in the finale sequence was at a peak and they interacted well with their audience at this point, getting everyone on their feet. A really great night out for all.

Legally Blonde (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review

Legally Blonde (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review

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Legally Blonde (UK Tour)
Bristol Hippodrome
Reviewed on Monday 2nd October 2017 by Elisha Harris

Legally Blonde is an absolute must see! I've had the Original London Cast Recording on repeat ever since it was released and have always been obsessed with the soundtrack. The songs are upbeat, funny and so catchy and although I can't hold a tune; I often find myself belting 'oh my god' like it was written for me on regular occasions. That being said, I don't know what kept me from seeing this beautiful show for so long, but I can assure you it won't be long until I'm back! 

I must admit I struggled to imagine Lucie Jones as Elle before the performance but the second she appeared on stage she took my breath away, her vocals are completely out of this world I was in complete awe. I hadn't seen her in anything since her X factor days so I didn't know what to expect but she was incredible. The other standout for me has to be Rita Simons as Paulette. She had me in tears of laughter from start to finish, and has such a versatile voice; it gave my shivers! In the future, I'll make a conscious effort to see her in any other shows she does.

The cutest cast members have to be Bruiser & Rufus. Rufus didn't do exactly as he was told this evening as he wandered on stage before his cue and long story short, the crowd was in hysterics, and Lucie took 3 attempts to finish her line as she was laughing so hard.  The audience roared with cheer when she completed it, it was hilarious! Despite that little mishap, both adorable dogs stole hearts every time they took to the stage. 

The whole company gelled together so well, I feel so privileged to have witnessed such an incredible performance. 


Legally Blonde is playing at Bristol Hippodrome until October 7th, don't miss out; I promise you won't regret it!
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