“Legally Blonde” – the 2001 movie, that is – tells the story of a sorority girl who leaves behind her beach-going, designer-shopping life to enroll in Harvard Law School and win back her ex-boyfriend by getting a law degree. The movie, starring Reese Witherspoon as the bubbly though somewhat naïve Elle Woods, was a summer blockbuster and has since become a beloved watch-again rom-com. A star-studded cast, a bit of romance, and a story of triumph and personal growth: How could it get better?
According to Mike Replogle, who will direct the McLean Community Players’ production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” this month, adding singing and dancing does just that.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical,” based both on the movie and the original 2001 Amanda Brown novel, opened in 2007 and, after a run on Broadway and several international tours and productions of the show, it has been opened up to public use. Replogle, director of the Musical Theater Actor Studio for the Fairfax Academy for Communication and Arts and 30-year veteran of the craft, will be directing the Washington, D.C. area community theater premiere of the musical.
“It’s just so uplifting right from the beginning, and there’s so much energy, and that energy never stops,” Replogle said. “With the music and dance and the gags, it’s almost like Vaudeville in some places. That stuff allows us to really have fun with it. I like the musical much more.”
Replogle will be leading the McLean Community Players in bringing the musical to the Alden Theatre stage this month, with the support of a creative team including Washington Area Theater Community Honors (WATCH) nominated co-choreographers Kathleen McCormack and Chris Dore, and a cast of 25 who meet the physical demands of the production with a smile. It’s hard work, Replogle said, but the musical itself lifts spirits and keeps the energy high.
“It’s that kind of a show. It pokes a lot of fun at itself. It’s very tongue in cheek,” Replogle said. “I go in there sometimes not feeling wonderful, and by the end of the show I’m so excited when I get home I can’t sleep. It’s a hoot. It’s a good time. I’m really enjoying myself.”
The high-energy singing and dancing production is a departure for the musical’s lead, Kate Merryman. The 21-year-old voice performance major at George Mason University has a background in opera and classical music theater roles, but after leading the McLean Community Players cast of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last summer as the narrator and earning a WATCH nomination for outstanding lead actress, she’ll be returning for another modern musical.
“It’s very exciting for me to step out of my box and really take on a fun and flirty kind of character, as opposed to an operatic, classical character,” Merryman said.
Elle Woods is an iconic character, Merryman says, and one that audiences will certainly know either from the movie or the musical, but she hopes that her Elle will be unique while still embodying those familiar parts of the character that audiences have come to love.
Merryman’s focus in playing Elle Woods is on how the character transforms from a naïve Valley girl to something more by bursting out of her Malibu bubble and realizing all she can achieve.
The musical imparts an important message, to disregard the nay-sayers and make your way – in your very own way – but for Merryman and Replogle both, delighting audiences with the sheer fun of this musical comedy is essential.
“If anything they should at least just sit there and enjoy it, and smile, and laugh with us. There are so many funny lines and things that I don’t know how somebody couldn’t laugh at,” Merryman said.
“I hope that they’re going to be surprised that a show called ‘Legally Blonde’ is going to be that much fun,” Replogle said. “It is more than it appears, and I hope they walk out the door singing all the tunes and tapping their feet.”
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” opens Friday and runs through July 29. Performances take place at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $20, $18 for students and seniors. For more information, call 703-790-9223 or visit mcleanplayers.org.