They say blondes have more fun, and that’s certainly true in McLean this month, as the McLean Community Players present the D.C.-area community theater premiere of “Legally Blonde — the Musical” at the Alden Theatre Friday through July 29.
“The show was brought up during deliberations about the upcoming season and we went with it because it was new and exciting and (assistant director) Annie O’Neil had a terrific vision for the show,” said Linda Stone, co-producer and MCP board member. “We knew it would appeal to McLean audiences; it’s family friendly and all the girls in middle school and high school are excited about seeing it.”
The musical revolves around Elle Woods, a Malibu princess, who upon achieving her degree in fashion design follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back. The story is based on the novel “Legally Blonde” by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name. The musical played for a year on Broadway in 2007, and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including Best Original Score.
A cast of 28 is led by director Mike Replogle, who currently serves as the director of the Musical Theater Actor Studio for the Fairfax Academy for Communication and Arts.
“The story of Elle Woods is not the simple, one-dimensional tale it might seem,” Replogle said. “It is a triumphant story about anyone who has ever let others dictate his or her worth, and the discovery that true worth is more than skin deep and greater than we ever could have imagined.”
Even though Replogle had never seen the musical before when named as director, he watched an MTV special about the musical, listened to the music and decided the best way to keep the humor, emotion and fun of “Legally Blonde” intact.
“There’s no reason to do a show unless you are going to do your own version of it,” Replogle said. “This is a big dance musical and a lot of diverse music and everyone involved with the theater has been just so great, so we decided to just dance the hell out of it and there’s so much energy flying off the stage for the entire two hours.”
Fans of the 2001 movie will not be disappointed, as the book by Heather Hach produced many of the most quotable lines for the film. Furthermore, the musical numbers by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin only enhance the story of a sorority girl who attends Harvard Law in an attempt to recapture her love.
Taking on the role made famous by Reese Witherspoon in the original movie, and duplicated by Laura Bell Bundy on Broadway, Kate Merryman plays Elle Woods, the blonde at the center of the action.
“I love this musical,” Merryman said. “Our main goal is to stay true to the story, but also make it our own and creative and something that is exciting for the audience.”
Merryman recently was nominated by WATCH as outstanding lead actress in a musical for her performance of the Narrator in MCP’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“I really enjoyed working with McLean last year and for this play, did a very intense audition process, and I am thrilled to be playing this part,” the 21-year-old said. “I was very familiar with this. I had seen it on tour and love the music and, of course, love the movie.”
A performance major at George Mason University, Merryman calls the part a “dream role” and is most excited about playing opposite her best friend, Matthew Lincoln-Bugg, playing mentor/possible love interest Emmett Forrest.
“We have great chemistry off stage and I feel like that can also be seen on stage. He is a fabulous singer,” Merryman said. “I’m also great friends with the girls in the Delta Three, and that really comes across. This whole cast has bonded so quickly and I think that’s important.”
The musical also stars Mark Grey-Mendes as Warner, Toby Nelson as Paulette and Paul Tonden as Professor Callahan.
Bobby McCoy serves as musical director, while Kathleen McCormack and Chris Dore share choreography duties, which includes huge ensemble dance numbers for high-octane songs such as “Ohmigod You Guys,” “What You Want” and “So Much Better.”
“There’s also a great jump-rope scene, and they are doing a great, great job, singing and jumping at the same time,” Replogle said. “I couldn’t be happier about how everything has turned out.”