With her pink suits, chippy chihuahua and Greek chorus of sorority sisters, Elle Woods seems to have it all. But when her well-bred boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, leaves UCLA for Harvard Law, Elle’s dreams for the future come crashing down.
“Elle is certain that Warner will propose,” explained Annamaria Pileggi, professor of the practice in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, who will direct Elle’s story, the musical “Legally Blonde,” in Edison Theatre Oct. 25 to Nov. 3.
“Instead, Warner breaks up with her,” Pileggi continued. “She’s not serious enough. ‘I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn,’ he says. Elle is devastated.”
But with support from her fellow Delta Nus, and inspiration from the latest “Town and Country,” Elle soon concocts a plan.
“She’s going to Harvard, too.”
‘We’re all multivalent’
“Legally Blonde” is adapted from the 2001 novel by Amanda Brown, which inspired the hit film with Reese Witherspoon and is loosely based on Brown’s own experiences at Stanford Law School.
Pileggi noted that, for all Elle’s bubble-gum tones and fashionable affectations, “Legally Blonde” raises serious questions about personal identity, social expectations and what it means to be authentic.
“Can a serious woman write with a fluffy pen?” Pileggi asked. “Yes, she can. We’re all multivalent, we don’t have to be just one thing. People encompass many truths.”
After buckling down for LSATs, Elle storms Harvard admissions with a squad of cheerleaders and a recommendation from Oprah herself. But as the semester begins, Elle’s open manner and exaggerated style are mocked by more buttoned-down classmates — most cruelly by Vivian Kensington, Warner’s new girlfriend.
“All Vivian sees is a stereotype,” Pileggi said. “But through the journey of the play, Elle comes to understand that she’s stronger, more intelligent and more independent than she’d realized. She doesn’t have to define herself by the man whose arm she’s on. She gets to be who she is.
“I think that’s a message we all need to hear,” Pileggi concluded. “We’re not just this or that. We’re not defined by how other people see us. We don’t have to fit ourselves into a single box. Being human is a complex proposition.
“You can be a feminist and still love pink.”
Cast and crew
The cast of 26 stars Emma Flannery as Elle, with Max Shteiman and Isabel Koleno as Warner and Vivian. Aidan Stern is Emmett, the teaching assistant who treats Elle kindly. Taylor Emerson, Hayley Emerson and Leighanne Guettler-James are sorority sisters Serena, Margot and Pilar. Jamie Hendler and Ethan Thomas are Paulette the hairdresser and Kyle the UPS driver.
Professor Callahan, who grants Elle a prestigious internship, is played by Stephen Reaugh. Enid, a fellow intern, is played by Emma Thorp. Exercise queen Brooke Wyndham is played by Isabella Gonzalez, with Nina Silverstein as Brooke’s stepdaughter, Chutney; Nathaniel Holmes as the pool boy Nikos; and Jens Tulio Damgaard as Nikos’ boyfriend, Carlos.
Rounding out the cast, in a variety of roles, are Alisha Duvall, Kyla Kikkawa, Natalie Hall, Sarah James, Sofia McGrath, Catherine Herlihy, Amanda Sherman, Alim Merchant, Benjamin Hartmann, Walker Sexton and Evan Moss.
The canine roles of Bruiser and Rufus are played by Tuco and Meatball, respectively.
Music and lyrics are by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin; the book is by Heather Hach. Set designers are Margery and Peter Spack, with costumes by Mona Jahani and props by Emily Frei. Lighting and sound are by Sean M. Savoie and Jon Zielke. Emily Parise is dramaturg; Emily Finck is assistant director.
The music director is Henry Palkes. Choreography is by Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal. The stage manager is Josh Sarris; hair and makeup are by Julia Praeger; the technical director is Mike Loui.
“Legally Blonde” begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27. Performances continue the following weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.
Performances take place in Edison Theatre, located in Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are $20, free for WashU students and $15 for other students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office.
American Sign Language interpretive services will be provided for the Sunday, Nov. 3 performance.
For more information, call 314-935-6543.