CHILLY Wearsiders gave Legally Blonde a red-hot reception as the curtain went up on the hit West End show.
The Sunderland Empire kicked off its festivities in a different way preferring to stage the musical rather than the traditional panto.
The move led to some controversy among pantomime purists. But the choice seemed to delight Wearsiders and those heading for the theatre last night, who dubbed the show the best musical they’d seen.
Brian Turns, 52, an engineer, from Tunstall, said: “I’d much prefer to see this show than a panto. It’s great when West End shows come here.
“If Sunderland gets the opportunity for a show like this to come here then why shouldn’t they take it? There’s plenty of pantos around in Tynemouth and Newcastle so if people really want to see one then there’s nothing stopping them.
“I don’t think Sunderland can afford to turn away shows like this just because some people think pantomimes should be on at Christmas instead.”
Andrea Evans, 33, a fire service clerk, from Newcastle said: “I’m really happy that the Empire went with this show instead of a panto. I came last year to see White Christmas too.
“I’m really happy to see the show come here from the West End. It’s just a shame it didn’t come to Newcastle.”
Media production student Simon Keogan, 22, from Roker, said: “I’d rather see a show like this. People can go and see a panto at loads of places, but this is the only place in the North East where you can really see a West End show.
“I wanted to see the show any way and it would have cost me a lot more to go to London to see it.”
Jonny Scrafton, 21, also a media production student, from Roker, said: “I’d definitely rather see this show. It’s such a big show and it’s from America and people come from all over to see this kind of show because they get the big stars.
“I love seeing the big shows come here from London because it gives people a chance to see them and it’s much cheaper than having to travel to London for them.”
After the show the audience was beaming with excitement.
Cheryl Hornsey, 39, a kitchen assistant, from Hartlepool, said: “I loved every minute of it. I’ve never seen the film but it was worth coming to see the show. I’d recommend it to everybody.”
Sally Weston, 33, an interior designer, from Durham, said: “I absolutely loved it. I saw the film about 10 years ago but I enjoyed the show so much more.
“The characters were great and Liz McClarnon was great and the UPS guy was brilliant. It was the best musical I’ve ever seen.
“The last time I was here I came to see Grease and this knocked the spots off that.”
Gillian Stephens, 29, an advertising account executive, from Ashbrooke, said: “I thought it was absolutely hilarious and really uplifting.
“It’s definitely the best musical I’ve ever seen. I’d recommend it to anybody. I’m a big fan of the film but this is even better and I don’t think you need to have seen the film to really enjoy it.”