Based on the iconic film, which stars Reese-Witherspoon as Elle Woods, Legally Blonde the musical burst onto the stage back in 2007. ROAR met with the director, Alfred Mitchell and producer, Jess Smith before KMT brings the musical to life this week.
What is Legally Blonde about?
Alfred: So we meet Elle Woods, our central protagonist, who at the start is living the perfect life by her standards…
Jess: …In sunny LA, where dreams come true. But spoiler alert… not everything does go perfectly after that moment, and we follow her through her heartbreak as she goes off to Harvard to win back the man of her dreams.
How different is the musical to the film?
Jess: I would say that the plotline is very similar, but of course as a musical comes the introduction of musical numbers. This of course means that a lot of the big emotive moments are told through song.
Did you want to stick true to the story?
Alfred: Legally blonde is one of those shows where you need to stick to it fairly strictly. It is such an iconic film. Also, most movies that have become musicals, quite a lot gets lost in that transfer, whereas I would say that this is the one case that it does in fact improve it. The subject lends itself so perfectly to being a musical. I love it!
Jess: There is definitely a lot to play thematically. Stuff can be drawn from the film which aren’t necessarily the focus.
How did you approach the production?
Alfred: The way I approach any piece is doing a mood board. I kept coming back to themes of judgement, prejudice, vanity and image. Those were my main focuses. I am not going to ruin it but I’ve put the theme of judgement very much at the centre of the way I have staged. It is definitely unlike any production of legally I have ever seen.
Was it difficult to cast? How did you find your Elle Woods?
Alfred: It is a notoriously difficult role to cast. It requires so much vocally, physically, emotively. It is in my opinion one of the hardest roles in musical theatre.
Jess: As well as being very physically and mentally demanding, there are actually quite a few nuances that I didn’t realise I would want or need. There are certain things our elle fleshes out in her role that are fantastic. I don’t think many could do this.
How did you want to confront the gender stereotype?
Alfred: I appreciate the existence of gender issues in the show. It is quite literally about a women who realises she can’t live without a man – that is why the show happens. I don’t know if I find it a problem because what it is showing is that it is a problem. Elle Woods is a product of sunny LA, where dreams come true, and I think she learns this isn’t true.
Jess: I think you could say there is a problem with the setup of the narrative in that it does base itself on these gender stereotypes. But I think that is the point it is trying to make, and that the results of the play are entirely feminist. It is very nuanced; she is able to use her femininity as something that is powerful. Wearing pink is her way of taking ownership.
Why should you come and see it?
Jess: We have real dogs! I know I am a little biased but our Elle Woods is one of the most phenomenally talented performers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. If you want to see someone belt a top b♭, come to the Greenwood Theatre 4-6th December.