By Kelsen Kitchen
If you’re familiar with the 2001 movie “Legally Blonde,” you may remember the line from the movie spoken by the main character, Elle, “This is going to be like senior year, only funner!” Conveniently, this is a great way to describe the 2007 musical based on the movie, which premiered at Utah State on Nov. 1.
“Legally Blonde”, with music and lyrics written by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, is a colorful, rollicking musical that, according to student director Luke Shepherd, is “unparalleled in its high energy and fast-paced performance style.” It follows the story of Elle Woods, a California valley girl who follows an ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back.
With seven Tony nominations under its belt, the musical is of a higher profile than some of the recent performances at USU in the recent past.
“’Legally Blonde’ was chosen for a number of reasons,” explained Ken Risch, the show’s director. “One, we wanted to do something new and that speaks to a student audience. Two, there are numerous featured roles in the show that give many students an opportunity to shine. Three, the large number of female roles helped to recruit a talented freshman class of actors. Four, the design challenges (those) involved for our graduate design students.”
It is also a big, ambitious musical that presented challenges that the cast rose to meet. “I am so proud of the way this cast has tackled this very ambitious project,” Risch said. “This is a heavy dance show and the music is quite challenging.”
“Legally Blonde” is a modern musical (it debuted on Broadway in 2007) and its youth is reflected in some writing and pacing differences from older musicals.
“Over the years, I’ve directed a lot of musicals and have had to adjust to changes in writing that are largely due to technological advances that have affected how a musical flows,” Risch said. “Broadway theatres have tracked scenery, which allows shows to move from scene to scene in a cinematic fashion without ever bringing down a curtain or adding scene change music. One of the challenges for many producing groups is solving this problem so that the show maintains its fluidity. ‘Legally Blonde’moves very quickly from one locale to the next, with sometimes as many as four different locales in a single musical number. It’s an exciting challenge that I think we’ve successfully met.”
Because of this continuous flow, the cast and directors had to be creative about transitioning from scene to scene.
“Once you press the ‘play’ button you have passed the point of no return, because there’s no pausing or stopping for scene and costume changes,” Shepherd said. “One song or scene immediately segues into the next and actors never simply exit offstage without dragging a set piece or prop with them, and they never enter without brining something new onstage. We quite literally have costume changes on stage in front of everyone.”
The theme of the 2012 – 2013 theatre season is “An Impulse to Soar.” According to Risch, that theme is illustrated in the show’s lead female character, Elle Woods.
“[Elle] is caught in a defined role that seems appealing to her, but doesn’t allow her to blossom as a woman. Although she attends Harvard Law School for the wrong reasons, she goes through a process of self-discovery that helps her to find her way in a world that tends to categorize people. At the same time, by holding onto her best qualities, she retains her individualism and inspires those around her to do the same,” Risch said.
In addition, “Legally Blonde”is strikingly fresh. “Legally Blonde is brand-spanking-new in comparison with other musicals we’ve put on in the past,” Shepherd said. “It premiered on Broadway in 2007, making it a show that directly correlates with our day and culture. Instead of exploring a world of fantasy in some fictional place or distant time, this musical takes place right now in our day and age and deals with the stereotypes and quirks of our modern culture. The music also belongs to our generation, making it exciting and appealing to pop culture. This is in stark contrast to the older shows we’ve put on in recent years.”
For those looking for a fun way to spend the night or need a creative idea for an awesome date night, “Legally Blonde” will play at the Morgan Theatre Nov. 6-10.
According to Shepherd, “Even if you know nothing about the movie or the musical, I can guarantee a good experience. There is something for you to relate to in “Legally Blonde”that is about us, our culture, our generation, and it’s portrayed in a humorous and satirical style.”