Gainesville Theatre Alliance Presents LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL in An Era Of Female Empowerment
In the hit movie Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon's character Elle Woods spends the film's climax (a high-stakes murder trial) in a pink suit as bright and feminine as her personality.
"Whoever said orange is the new pink was seriously disturbed," she quips earlier in the film. Sixteen years later, following the explosive #MeToo movement, millions of women marched for their rights and voices in hundreds of cities across America. Their reasons for marching were as varied as the women themselves, but one thing united them; they wore pink.
In a post-#MeToo America, Gainesville Theatre Alliance is proud to bring the iconic, girl-power comedy to the stage. Legally Blonde: The Musical runs Nov 5-16 at Brenau University's Hosch Theatre. In a 2016 interview with Buzzfeed, Legally Blonde screenwriters, Karen McCullah and Kristen Smith, addressed one of the most talked-about scenes in the film.
Elle's law professor and boss, Callahan, makes an aggressive sexual advance toward her and fires her when she refuses to reciprocate. The musical version of the story creates a more substantial plot point with this scene. McCullah, speaking on #MeToo, says, "This didn't just start, it's been going on for a while. We were just drawing from real life [with Callahan]." Smith adds, "I feel like this whole year  in particular, with stories about women in the headlines, there's a real hunger for female stories."
Legally Blonde was chosen for GTA's 40th season in hopes that the show would give female students a chance to shine and to empower audiences with an uplifting message. Elle Woods's iconic character has been the subject of admiration from fans and feminists alike. The role is one of the most famous in chick-flick history, having been played by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Laura Bell Bundy, and Haylie Duff.
"I think our legacy is this fearless, funny female character who is sort of radical in her confidence," Smith said. "She's changing the world even though she doesn't really know that she's doing it." GTA's Elle Woods is played by Brenau senior Lauren Hill, and she doesn't take the responsibility lightly. "I have to first acknowledge the work and performances of those who have played the role before me. While I am certainly tipping the hat towards Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Bundy, I am incredibly excited to put my own spin on Elle Woods, one that I hope audiences will enjoy!"
So what is it about Elle that is so powerful? More than just her style, smarts, and sass, Elle's heart is what truly pushes the story forward. Her steadfast belief in the power of love drives her to make it into one of the most competitive programs in the world: Harvard Law School. It is this same love of self that motivates her to eventually drop her sleazy ex, Warner, and pursue her own, new dream of a career in law. Costume designer Pamela Workman says, "This show could go the stereotype of dumb blonde and have no growth. However, Elle embraces the #MeToo within herself. She allows her inner strength to guide and change her mind and heart, and begins to find her real truth."
In the end, Legally Blonde is a romance between Elle and her best self-not a traditional romantic comedy at all. That's not to say the musical is entirely devoid of romance; quite the opposite. A major supporting character is Emmett, a teaching assistant at Harvard, whose no-nonsense attitude and fierce dedication to education encourages and aids Elle in becoming a serious law student. Hill says, "I think it's especially important to note that not only are the women empowered, but the men are too. Elle is not the only character who faces scrutiny and abuse. Her counterpart, Emmett, does as well. While his abuse is not the same as Elle's, he faces verbal comments that are clearly not okay."
Though Emmett's subplot is essential, he remains a supporting character, allowing Elle to tell her own story in her own way. Their romance is secondary to Elle's character development. Elle and Emmett never sing a traditional love ballad. Instead, their duets primarily focus on helping each other achieve their best selves, as seen in "Chip on Your Shoulder," "Take It Like a Man," and the show's titular number, "Legally Blonde." "Legally Blonde" is a song of particular importance to director and choreographer David Rosetti. It takes place directly after Callahan fires Elle. "It's so interesting to think this show was written before the #MeToo movement.
The story speaks so well to how women can be treated by men, especially those in an authority role. Some of the most heartbreaking lyrics are sung [by Elle]: 'Some girls fight hard/ Some face the trial/ Some girls are just meant to smile.' It gets me emotional every time because I think, what a terrible thought, that your own worth might just be in how you look instead of what's inside your heart and mind." "I hope people come ready to laugh, think, and cry," says Rosetti. "Elle goes through such a big journey in this show that I hope the audience finds the joy in watching someone who is not willing to give up their integrity, heart, and self-worth for success-or even a new pair of shoes! I think the world would be a much better place with more Elle Woods around. Keeping true to oneself is always in style!"
Performances are Nov 5-9 and Nov 12-16 at 7:30 pm, with matinees on Nov 9, 10 & 16 at 2:30 pm, at Brenau University's Hosch Theatre in the John S. Burd Center. Tickets are $28-30 for adults, $26-28 for seniors, and $18-20 for students, and are available at GainesvilleTheatreAlliance.org or by calling the box office at 678-717-3624.
Legally Blonde: The Musical is rated PG-13 for language and suggestive humor. ABOUT GAINESVILLE THEATRE ALLIANCE: Gainesville Theatre Alliance is a nationally-acclaimed collaboration between the University of North Georgia, Brenau University, theatre professionals, and the North East Georgia community. A professional theatre attached to two college theatre programs, GTA provides education through collaboration are creates quality theatrical experiences that educate, inspire, enrich, and unite. GTA produces seven productions a year; four mainstage shows, two Discovery series productions, and one Theatre for Young Audiences show, produced by GTA's TYA division, WonderQuest. Gainesville Theatre Alliance is currently celebrating its 40th season. For more information, visit GainesvilleTheatreAlliance.org.