Kevin Sherwin talks about his favourite new musical...and the Oliviers ceremony
Congratulations, Legally Blonde! I am writing this in advance of the Best New Musical award actually being given out but it's got to win, hasn't it? It's not quite a case of 'the little show that could', but Blonde battled movie-to-stage cynicism, theatre snobbery and a woefully received Children In Need performance to emerge as a criticially-mostly-acclaimed proper West End hit.
I'm not sure the same can be said for the perennially troubled Love Never Dies or the now-closed Love Story, though of course commercial success is hardly the sole criterion to give awards by. If Legally Blonde does win I'll be thrilled despite my last visit, a New Year's Day matinée, being thunderously underwhelming (I put it down to a mass hangover), and it'll be the second year in a row my favourite has taken the prize - all I need now is for next to normal's as-yet-imaginary West End production to bring it home next year and I'll have a superfan hat-trick.
Jodie Prenger did an amiably shambolic job on the red carpet, wittering on, interrupting Paul Gambaccini, saying "Angela Langebury" and asking Caissie Levy if she's still doing (the scandalously snubbed) Hair; it's been SIX MONTHS and it's still raw, Prenger. Before the awards had even started, my highlight of the evening came when Jodie asked Gary Lineker what he was doing there; cue ultimate evils from his actor and currently-on-tour-actually-thanks-very-much wife, Danielle.
The performances from three of the four nominated New Musicals (shame the Theatre Royal was deprived of the FELA! star's pecs in the flesh) were terrific. If Love Never Dies has aspirations towards emerging from the murky shadow of nitpicky naysayers, letting as many people as possible hear and thus have their heads blown off by Ramin Karimloo's 'Til I Hear You Sing is absolutely the way to go. The Legally Blonde Remix was appropriately giddy and manic and was a good representation of the delights of the show; Susan "Not Sheridan" McFadden seems to be an appealing Elle... Time for me to hop back on the ultimate thrill ride of the Savoy's lottery I think.
Wasn't the BBC Red Button coverage, while welcome in theory, ridiculously infuriating? The nadir was surely reached when Nancy Carroll's Best Actress speech was muted in favour of a Radio 2 anecdote about somebody having had dinner with Mika's family (if Tracie Bennett had rightfully won and this had happened I'd have gladly kicked my TV down the stairs). It really would have been exponentially preferable to see the ceremony in its entirety than to watch and listen to Paul Gambaccini be the All-Knowing Expert on Everything in Existence, baffling his interviewees with fatuous, obtuse questions.
Sheridan Smith's win was as expected as it is deserved. Her speech was lovely and I don't know how anyone could not be even further charmed by her tonight, should such a thing be possible. Her swelling bow music always gets me a bit misty-eyed too, although I did feel compelled to stand up in my bedroom as I mostly did when she took her curtain call.
And Best New Musical went to... Legally Blonde. I was worried for a second actually: it just doesn't seem like an Olivier-winning Best New Musical, does it? Well I suppose it does now because it is one. I was at the first preview and was a fairly rabid fan in its early months, going more than a handful of times in a short space of time. For me, some spark left with the original cast but it remains a joyful, clever show and I couldn't be happier. So, to give this rambling, play-ignorant blog some fairly facile framing: Congratulations, Legally Blonde!