Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Align Entertainment presents the musical stage adaptation of the romantic comedy, Legally Blonde.
Based on the novel by Amanda Brown, and the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, this Tony Award-nominated show tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner. Defying expectations as the “dumb blonde”, Elle eventually dumps the boyfriend and manages to successfully help defend exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial.
Having already received several productions in Vancouver in recent years, for Julia Ullrich, who plays Woods in the upcoming production, the popularity stems directly from the film.
“You don’t have to be a musical lover to be excited about this show, you just have to have loved the movie back in 2001, as so many of us did,” she says. “Elle Woods is a fabulous character, and it’s so easy to root for her on her journey.”
Playing the role of beautician Paulette, Jennifer Suratos points to the likeability of its central character who follows her love to Harvard, but learns so much about herself.
“She’s smart, she’s loyal, and has a support system that follows her wherever she goes,” says Suratos. “Most importantly, I think, she has a heart of gold. And it is this sense of kindness that has the audience rooting for her every step of the way.”
Featuring a large female cast, both actors are enjoying the creative and supportive nature as the company rehearses.
“There’s a really lovely vibe in the rehearsal hall where everyone is supporting each other, working hard and having lots of laughs,” says Ullrich. “I’ve been told before that working with Align is like working with a family, and I totally get that now.”
“It’s wonderful to be in a room full of women of all ages, especially when they help me learn how to ‘bend and snap’,” adds Suratos.
Adding another dynamic to rehearsals is the very funny cast. While most of the comedy ends up on stage, that doesn’t mean they aren’t having some fun along the way.
“The other day Nick Bradbury snuck up on me and scared me and I laughed for a good two minutes,” says Ullrich. “I’d say that’s one reason to come see the show alone. I can pretty much guarantee you that’ll you’ll laugh out loud.”
For Suratos it is Ranae Miller who breaks up the cast by playing against type as Vivienne Kensington, the new fiancée to Elle’s ex-boyfriend.
“Ranae could not be more different than the role she is playing,” says Suratos. “So, we laugh a lot, because she must suppress her natural character of being friendly and sweet, and act all snooty and snobby instead.”
Of course, as a musical, the songs are the thing. Featuring over twenty through its two-acts, Ullrich and Suratos have different favourites from the show.
In “What You Want”, Elle reveals her motivation for attending Harvard is love, and it clinches her admission to the school. It is also the number in which Ullrich gets a real workout.
“It’s [the one] I get to dance in the most, which is a nice challenge for me,” she says. “It’s also monstrously long and has lots of different elements and things going on, which definitely makes it engaging as an audience member.”
Surprisingly, given her character does not perform in it, Suratos chooses “So Much Better” as her favourite.
It is a pivotal moment at the end of act one when Elle learns she’s landed a coveted internship on the legal team defending Wyndham.
“She finally realizes that there is something better than winning back her guy,” says Suratos. “Plus, the song is so well-constructed musically, with lots of brass and drums that drive the tempo to a climactic build.”
And while the show’s main characters all get their time to shine musically, Suratos says audiences may be surprised to know just how much work has gone into the background vocals.
“Our music director Clare Wyatt is hard at work teaching complicated four or five-part harmonies to our very large cast,” she says. “So much of the score has backing vocals and it lends so much to the fullness of the music. It’s going to sound so great.”
Legally Blonde The Musical plays the Michael J Fox Theatre in Burnaby February 2-17. Visit http://alignentertainment.ca for tickets and information.