New Generation of Broadway Stars Populate Legally Blonde Workshop

By Kenneth Jones
May 3, 2006

The acting company exploring the new musical Legally Blonde in a May workshop in Manhattan includes Laura Bell Bundy as Elle and Kate Shindle as her brunette nemesis, Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun learned.



Bundy, a veteran of Hairspray and Wicked (and a 1993 Drama Desk Award nominee for her turn in Off-Broadway's Ruthless!) will play Elle, the vain, sorority-sister bubblehead whose boyfriend dumps her when he heads to law school. She follows, designer bag in hand, and becomes a whiz kid at Harvard. Reese Witherspoon created the role in the 2001 hit film, which was based on a novel by Amanda Brown (Heather Hach is librettist on the new Broadway-bound musical).

Director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell's workshop rehearsals lead to presentations May 18-20, according to cast members. No official casting has been announced for the San Francisco world premiere and the spring 2007 Broadway start, but Bundy's involvement has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the theatre community lately.

The workshop is expected to include Jekyll & Hyde and former Miss America Shindle as Elle's competition (Selma Blair played her in the movie), "Saturday Night Live" star Rachel Dratch in the Jennifer Coolidge role, Richard H. Blake (The Wedding Singer) as Elle's ex and Christian Borle (Spamalot) as a new love interest.

As previously reported, the new score is by husband and wife team Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin (Sarah, Plain and Tall, the musical).

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Broadway dates for the new musical comedy, Legally Blonde, were announced recently by producers Hal Luftig, Fox Theatricals and Dori Berinstein, in association with MGM Onstage, Darcie Denkert and Dean Stolber. Previews will begin March 30, 2007, at a Broadway theatre to be announced, followed by an opening night of April 26.

A pre-Broadway engagement will play San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre in January 2007.

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.

Jerry Mitchell is the Tony Award winning choreographer of La Cage aux Folles. This marks his Broadway directorial debut.

The production features scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, sound design by ACME Sound Partners and musical direction by Alex Lacamoire.

Here's how the producers characterize the show: "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."

Mitchell was Tony-nominated for choreographing Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty. Other Broadway choreography credits include Never Gonna Dance, Imaginary Friends and revivals of Gypsy, The Rocky Horror Show (Drama Desk nomination) and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He also conceives, directs and choreographs Broadway Bares for Broadway Cares.

Nell Benjamin (lyrics and music) makes 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. Nell 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, Nell 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), making 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).

Heather Hach makes 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.

Set designer David Rockwell designed the sets for Hairspray (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations), The Rocky Horror Show (Drama Desk nomination), All Shook Up (Drama Desk nomination), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Omnium Gatherum and, for film, "Team America."

Costume designer Gregg Barnes' Broadway credits include The Drowsy Chaperone, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Side Show and Flower Drum Song (Tony Award nomination). He also spent nine seasons as resident designer for Paper Mill Playhouse.

Lighting designer Kenneth Posner worked on Wicked, Hairspray, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nominations), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Little Women, The Frogs, The Goat, Imaginary Friends, Swing!, The Man Who Had All The Luck, Uncle Vanya, Side Man (Lortel Award), You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Lion in Winter, Little Me, A View From The Bridge (Drama Desk nomination), The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Getting Away with Murder, The Little Foxes, The Rose Tattoo, The Father and The Rehearsal, and Off-Broadway's Valhalla, The Wild Party (Lortel Award, Drama Desk, and Outer Circle Critics nominations), The Play About the Baby, tick, tick…BOOM!, The Waverly Gallery, That Championship Season, Pride's Crossing (Lortel Award), As Bees in Homey Drown, Cowgirls, The Food Chain, SuBurbia and many productions for Playwrights Horizons, The Public, Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, The Vineyard, and Classic Stage Company.

ACME Sound Partners designed sound for Broadway's The Light in the Piazza, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Spamalot, Dracula the Musical, Twentieth Century, Fiddler on the Roof, Never Gonna Dance, The Boy From Oz, Avenue Q, Gypsy, La Bohème (Drama Desk Award), Flower Drum Song, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, Bells Are Ringing, A Class Act, Jane Eyre and The Full Monty.

Legally Blonde's musical director is Alex Lacamoire was most recently the music director of Wicked on Broadway. He served as music director and co-arranger/orchestrator of Bat Boy: The Musical Off-Broadway with Laurence O'Keefe. Other credits as arranger/orchestrator include the 2001 national tour of Godspell, and the Off-Broadway production of Captain Louie. His upcoming projects include High Fidelity and In the Heights.