As a Tony Award-winning choreographer with 30 years in the business, Jerry Mitchell knows what it takes to stage a successful Broadway show. And Legally Blonde the Musical, now on stage at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, appears to have all the right ingredients — starting with a memorable heroine.
“All of the great musicals have these larger-than-life characters,” said Mitchell, who made his Broadway directorial debut with Legally Blonde the Musical. “They want something, they’re willing to fight for it, and that’s what makes them so much fun to watch. I remember so clearly watching the movie and thinking to myself: ‘This would be a fabulous musical.’”
Like the popular 2001 film on which it’s based, Legally Blonde the Musical follows the adventures of a perky sorority girl who follows her ex to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back. The musical opened on Broadway in 2007, garnering seven Tony nominations. And the touring production recently received Touring Broadway Awards for Best Musical, Best Choreography and Best Design — an achievement Mitchell was especially proud to receive.
“It’s extremely difficult to take a Broadway show on the road because you simply can’t take all of the technical elements with you,” said Mitchell, who follows in the footsteps of famed choreographer-turned-directors such as Michael Bennett and Jerome Robbins. “The show has to re-invent itself in a way. But I understand the road from the dancer/choreographer’s perspective; and I think that experience really helped me in putting this production together.
“The score is quite spectacular,” he added. “Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin both went to Harvard themselves and are among the smartest composers I’ve worked with. The lyrics are incredibly funny, and the songs really tell you something about the story.”
Although Becky Gulsvig (who stars as Elle Woods in the national tour) will be on vacation through June 29, Nashville audiences will see two actresses that are uniquely qualified to fill Elle’s shoes. Laura Bell Bundy, the Tony-nominated star of the original Broadway production and recent Nashville transplant, will cover the role during evening performances at TPAC. And Lauren Ashley Zakrin, star of the MTV reality series Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods, will fill in for Gulsvig during matinees.
What: Legally Blonde the Musical
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall, 505 Deaderick St.
Cost: Tickets start at $22.50
Info: Tickets available at the TPAC Box Office in downtown Nashville, at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in the Mall at Green Hills and at all Ticketmaster outlets. Call 255-ARTS, or visit tpac.org/legallyblonde; ticketmaster.com; legallyblondethemusical.com