UA’s Arizona Repertory Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with the musical version of “Legally Blonde,” based on the 2001 novel and film about a sorority girl who tries to win back her ex by earning a Harvard law degree.
“Legally Blonde the Musical” also marks the live stage debuts of Lillie Langston (in the lead role of Elle Woods) and Clayton Lukens (playing her love interest Emmett) and several University of Arizona School of Theater, Film & Television students who were sidelined during the pandemic.
While challenging, the past two years have been a crash course in adaptability for UA theater students.
“I think we discovered during COVID ... what we call ‘self-tapes’ or ‘self-submissions’,” said Christie Kerr, an assistant professor in the school. “It seemed like the way to go with the students because we have to train them.”
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Kerr, who is in her seventh year at the UA, is director and choreographer for “Legally Blonde the Musical.” She also teaches musical theatre dance and performance classes.
“I think (students) had more time to prepare than they would if we were doing things live, and because the industry is changing so much, this is what they’re going to have to do,” Kerr said.
For UA theater senior Erin McDaniel, landing the role of the accused murderer Brooke proved to be more of a learning experience than a challenge.
“I think ‘Legally Blonde’ is just so much fun. The opening number alone has so much energy,” McDaniel said. “There’s never a dead moment; it’s always moving. It’s hard to find a show that has it all, and ‘Legally Blonde’ does.”
For Langston, portraying the ditzy blonde law student who proves she’s got a lot more going on upstairs than she’s being given credit, is a chance to connect with audiences.
“Honestly, I love to tell stories and make people happy,” she said. “Even as a performer, there’s not a time where I see a professional show or a Broadway production where I don’t come out of the theater feeling better, different, moved. … I want to do that for someone.”
While the story behind “Legally Blonde the Musical” is largely based upon Woods’ chase for her ex-boyfriend, its values and lessons go much further than the love story.
“(It) teaches you, through Elle Woods, that you shouldn’t change who you are to fit other people’s mold,” said Langston. “Especially as a woman, you feel like you have to make yourself smaller in order to fit other people’s molds. But Elle Woods defies all of those expectations, and even though people are so mean and so cruel to her, she continues to persevere and does not change a single thing about herself to reach her goals.”
“Legally Blonde the Musical” opens with previews on Sunday, Oct. 2, and Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the Marroney, and continues through Oct. 16.
El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.