More Than Pink At ‘Legally Blonde’
Marisa Iati | Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Omigod You Guys. Washington Hall is about to erupt with pink when the Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo) takes the stage this weekend for a three-performance run of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”
The show, which is the student theatre group’s annual spring production, is based on the novel and film of the same name. It tells the familiar story with exuberance, but senior Elizabeth Curtin, one of the producers and the actress who plays Vivienne, said there’s more to the musical than the spectacle.
“While maybe … to the outside viewer it just looks a bunch of pizzazz and fireworks, there are a lot of moments of heart in this show,” Curtin said. “So while it is a bunch of feel good-ery, there is some substance to this.
“And you won’t have to dig for it. I think this cast and this crew have done an incredible job of finding the balance between the flash extravaganza and the honest moments that these characters really experience.”
One of those honest moments comes during a song called, somewhat ironically, “Serious.” Law school-bound Emmett tells his girlfriend Elle that if he’s going to be a senator by the time he’s 30, he needs a love interest who is “less of a Marilyn, more of a Jackie.” The line provides senior Emily Nash, who plays Elle, an opportunity to respond in a way that showcases her character’s depth.
The “Legally Blonde” production team has worked to highlight the complexity of many of the characters, director and sophomore Jacob Schrimpf said.
“Elle can easily come off as being just a dumb blonde, and she’s so much more than that,” Schrimpf said. “And I think through her journey, especially through the way that Emily Nash is playing her, you find an intelligence there that you wouldn’t initially see, you find a sense of compassion, you find all these deeper qualities.
“I think it’s also true with Emmett, with Vivienne. A lot of these characters, if they’re played honestly, pop and they grow beyond just these archetypes and stereotypical stock characters.”
The production team has particularly encouraged the actors who play gay characters to develop them beyond the stereotypical way in which they’re written, Schrimpf said.
“What we’ve been trying to do is encourage these actors to find the character in themselves and … find how they as people can merge with these characters to create something that’s not stereotypical, that’s not offensive and something that’s really honest,” he said.
Schrimpf said the song “Legally Blonde” at the end of Act II is a particularly sincere part of the show. The number features Elle and Emmett sharing a tender moment alone on the stage.
“We really worked on stripping that moment down and allowing it to breathe,” Schrimpf said. “And so when you get the juxtaposition of that moment of honesty with all the other moments that are really spectacular, you get this really nice, kind of refreshing view into these characters.”
In the less serious moments of the show, the cast employs over-the-top humor to make the satire clear. Curtin pointed to the opening song, “Omigod You Guys,” as an example of a larger-than-life number that shows the musical’s intent to make fun of sexist attitudes.
“I think you can go into a show like this and … see it as sort of anti-feminist if you wanted to, but once you sit through the whole thing and watch Elle’s journey, it’s like, ‘Yeah, this started out as goofy and we weren’t really taking her seriously, we weren’t really taking the show seriously,’ but by the end of it, you really do,” Curtin said.
“It’s about female empowerment, and all of the satire, taking it to both ends of the extreme, is what shows that contrast.”
Curtin said “Legally Blonde” is a “talent-jacked” production, and all students can find something to love in it.
“I think even if you have no exposure to musical theatre, this is a show that you can and will enjoy,” she said. “It’s hilarious, it’s heartfelt, a bit poignant at times and it’s triumphant. It’s just such a raucous good time.”
Oh, and it features a real Chihuahua. You can’t do “Legally Blonde” without a girl’s best friend.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” opens today at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall. Additional performances will be Friday and Saturday at the same time. General admission tickets cost $8, and student tickets are $6.
Tickets are available at the box office in the LaFortune Student Center, and any leftover tickets will be sold at the door before performances.