Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance and School of Music present Legally Blonde: The Musical. With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and a book by Heather Hach, Legally Blonde will bend and snap its way to the Center for the Performing Arts Theatre where it will run February 25–26 at 7:30 p.m., February 26–27 at 2 p.m., and March 1–3 at 7:30 p.m.
A fabulously fun, award-winning musical based on the adored movie, Legally Blonde follows the journey of the famously perky and fashion-savvy Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes and scandal in pursuit of her dreams. Woods is the president of UCLA sorority, Delta Nu, whose life is turned upside down after she is dumped by campus heartthrob Warner Huntington III. After he reveals the news at a not-so-romantic dinner that he is transferring to Harvard and looking for something more “serious,” Elle decides to follow Warner to Harvard Law School in the hope to win him back. However, that goal is set aside once she discovers her real passion for law. Through struggles and misconceptions, Elle defies expectations and manages to stay true to her delightfully pink personality, all on her own terms.
Sophomore acting major Michele Gurrieri plays the title character of Elle Woods, the preppy sorority-girl-turned-law-student in pursuit of winning the heart of her ex-boyfriend Warner, played by freshman acting major Malachi Goldsmith.
“To say this show means a lot to me is an understatement,” says Gurrieri. “Not only did I religiously watch the movie growing up, but when the musical came out, I listened to it nonstop. In addition to that, my older sister played Elle Woods in high school, and I idolized her. I attended every one of the dress rehearsals and performances in a new pink outfit every time. When we were told that Legally Blonde was the musical for this season, I was so extremely excited.”
Legally Blonde takes on the trope of a college-bound woman being after a “Mrs.” degree and turns that stereotype on its head. In the end, it becomes a story of a young woman finding her true calling, within a community of women supporting and celebrating each other. The production also depicts how strong, intelligent women can embrace their femininity without sacrificing their strengths. Gurrieri praises M.F.A. director Britannia Howe and her approach to help bring this essential element of the show to life. “Working with Britannia has been an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my career. It is incredible to build such a strong female character with such a strong female director for guidance.”
Working around the COVID-19 pandemic means the rehearsal process for a show of this magnitude had to shift: “Our process had to be postponed, but our large group numbers are amazing and will have you dancing in your seat. Big group scenes are super exciting, especially after a long stretch of COVID,” says Gurrieri.
Even with the delay in rehearsals and the need to wear masks, Gurrieri is most excited for the audience to see the dance numbers choreographed by Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre Maggie Marlin-Hess. In addition to choreography, audiences will be immersed in the bright and vibrant colors of California and UCLA and then transported to the warm and professional colors of Massachusetts and Harvard Law with the work of two M.F.A. students: scenic designer Jess Fleeman and lighting designer Henry Tran. The costumes, designed by Professor Lauren Lowell, add to the choreography and story. They range from hot pink dresses, cheerleading uniforms, and drum major attire to three-piece suits, monochromatic ensembles, and prison chic.
“Being cast as Elle Woods is an honor beyond words,” adds Gurrieri. “I am so happy to have the opportunity to share this message of feminism and fun with my professors, peers, and other audience members. I am also excited to share this role with my sister.”
Tickets for Legally Blonde can be purchased at the Center for the Performing Arts box office Monday–Friday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., or online. Masks will be required for the duration of the performance.