An Elle of a Town: San Fran Welcomes World Premiere of Legally Blonde

News   An Elle of a Town: San Fran Welcomes World Premiere of Legally Blonde Elle Woods joins the pantheon of musical theatre blondes Jan. 23 with the first performance of the new musical, Legally Blonde, at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre.

Laura Bell Bundy stars as Elle in the world premier of Legally Blonde.
Laura Bell Bundy stars as Elle in the world premier of Legally Blonde.

The ghosts of Lorelei Lee (of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), Laurey Williams (who had "long, yeller hair" in Oklahoma!) and Johanna Barker (whose shade in Sweeney Todd was variously "tawny," "golden saffron," "flaxen" and "blonde") will be watching over rising star Laura Bell Bundy (Hairspray, Wicked), who plays ambitious sorority sister Elle in the stage musical version of the popular novel and Hollywood film.

The world-premiere engagement of the Broadway-bound Legally Blonde, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, plays to Feb. 24 before the cast ships back to New York City to start Broadway performances at the Palace Theatre April 3. An April 29 Broadway opening is scheduled.

Drawing on the Amanda Brown novel and the MGM film it spawned, the musical comedy has music and lyrics by both Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and a book by Heather Hach. James Sampliner serves as music director.

In Legally Blonde, "Sorority star Elle Woods doesn't take 'no' for an answer. So when her boyfriend dumps her for someone more 'serious,' Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books, and sets out to go where no Delta Nu has gone before: Harvard Law. Along the way, Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style."

The show marks the Broadway directorial debut of Tony Award-winning choreographer Mitchell (La Cage aux Folles). Principal cast members for the musical comedy are Christian Borle (Spamalot) as Emmett, Orfeh (Saturday Night Fever) as Paulette, Richard H. Blake (The Wedding Singer) as Warner, Kate Shindle (Cabaret) as Vivienne, Nikki Snelson (Off-Broadway's How to Save the World…) as Brooke and Tony Award winner Michael Rupert (Sweet Charity, The Happy Time, Ragtime) as Professor Callahan.

Also featured in the cast are Annaleigh Ashford, April Berry, Paul Canaan, Lindsay Chambers, Beth Curry, Tracy Jai Edwards, Amber Efe, Gaelen Gilliland, Jason Gillman, Becky Gulsvig, Rod Harrelson, Manuel Herrera, Natalie Joy Johnson, Andy Karl, Nick Kenkel, Michelle Kittrell, Leslie Kritzer, Dequina Moore, Rusty Mowery, Kevin Pariseau, Matthew Risch, Jason Patrick Sands, Noah Weisberg and Kate Wetherhead.

The production features scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Kenneth Posner and Paul Miller and sound design by ACME Sound Partners.

The show is produced on Broadway by Hal Luftig, Fox Theatricals and Dori Berinstein, in association with MGM Onstage, Darcie Denkert and Dean Stolber.

The role of Elle calls for a leading lady who must be an endlessly driven and upbeat blonde who rises from cosmetic shallowness to law school glory. Laura Bell Bundy has experience that goes deeper than her blonde hair: She was a child actress who wowed audiences in the musical Ruthless! (and was Drama Desk Award nominated for it) and created the role of Amber in Broadway's Hairspray. She was a standby for Glinda in Broadway's Wicked.

Nell Benjamin (lyrics and music) will make her Broadway debut with Legally Blonde. She was nominated for a 2005 Drama Desk award for Best Book of a Musical for Cam Jansen and the Curse of the Emerald Elephant. She is also the recipient of the 2003 Kleban Foundation Award for lyrics and a 2003 Jonathan Larson Foundation Grant. She has written musicals, online games, TV shows and a corporate bond-trading manual. Benjamin wrote lyrics for the musical Sarah, Plain and Tall, produced in 2002 by TheatreworksUSA and re-mounted in 2006 at the Lucille Lortel. In 2003 Sarah was expanded into a full-length show at the O'Neill Festival. Prior to that, she was the lyricist on The Mice, which was produced by Harold Prince at The Prince Music Theater and at the Ahmanson (as part of the musical, 3hree).

Laurence O'Keefe (music and lyrics), who will also make his Broadway debut with Legally Blonde, is a composer, lyricist, pianist and writer. He won the 2004 Ed Kleban Award for lyrics, the 2001 ASCAP Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award, and a 2001 Jonathan Larson Award for his music and lyrics. He penned music and lyrics to Off-Broadway's Bat Boy: The Musical (2001 Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics' Circle Awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical). The cult-hit show has been produced in Boston, Tokyo, Seoul, and the West End, among other places. He co-wrote book, music and lyrics with Nell Benjamin, for Cam Jansen and The Curse Of The Emerald Elephant (Drama Desk nomination for Best Book); the music for Sarah, Plain and Tall, which now tours the country for TheatreWorks USA (and was expanded in 2003 into a full-length show at the O'Neill Festival).

O'Keefe and Benjamin are married to each other.

Heather Hach will make her Broadway debut with Legally Blonde. Her screenwriting credits include Disney's "Freaky Friday" starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, "In The Pink," "Cheer Up," "There's a Pop Diva Loose in the Cafeteria," "The Governor's Wife" and "In the Drink," a book adaptation.

For more information about the San Francisco engagement of Legally Blonde, visit www.shnsf.com (the clearinghouse site for three major Bay Area theatres — the Curran, the Goldlen Gate and the Orpheum). The Legally Blonde show page there offers video and text previews of the musical — "Blonde highlights," you might say.

To order Golden Gate tickets online visit shnsf.com or call (415) 512-7770.

Tickets for the Broadway run at the Palace Theatre go on sale to the public on Feb. 25, through Ticketmaster.com at (212) 307-4100.