“Legally Blonde,” the musical, was a hit on Broadway in 2007 for the same reason that the movie was a hit in 2001: People just love Elle Woods.
Elle is the seemingly ditzy blond princess played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie. She enters Harvard Law School and … well, she turns out to be not so ditzy after all.
And that’s exactly why Nikki Bohne loves playing the role in the national tour of the musical, which arrives in Spokane tonight.
“Elle Woods is the pinkest, most fabulous Southern California blonde you’ll ever meet,” said Bohne, who just graduated from Brigham Young University.
“And she sings these great upbeat songs and dances her way through Harvard Law. And she ends up convincing everyone that she’s more than just her credit cards and pink stilettos. She is a woman of substance and intelligence, who can be respected and trusted.”
Or to put it another way: “She’s just the funnest character.”
Audiences clearly have agreed. The musical ran for 595 performances on Broadway, garnered a few Tony nominations and has been touring nationally ever since.
Even the critics, who are not exactly partial to this kind of feel-good musical, paid it some grudging compliments. Ben Brantley of the New York Times called it “a nonstop sugar rush of a show.”
“Don’t underestimate the potency of that (feel-good) formula, which insists that a girl can be a powder puff and a power broker at the same time,” wrote Brantley in 2007.
The musical has songs by Lawrence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, which Bohne described as “pop/musical theater” style. The show travels with a nine-piece orchestra.
It also travels with a pair of diminutive co-stars who play Bruiser, the chihuahua. One is the lead dog, the other is the understudy.
Here in Spokane, the lead dog will be Chico, the original dog in the Broadway run.
“I love those dogs,” said Bohne. “We spend a lot of time bonding and doing sleepovers and play dates. And I always spend time with them before the show.”
She said the dogs are consummate professionals. They have never committed an embarrassing nuisance on stage.
Bohne said she has also bonded with the entire 26-person cast. Because of the nature of the show – and because it’s a non-Equity (stage union) tour – a lot of the cast is young and fresh from college.
“Fifteen hundred people auditioned for this show, so we have a lot of the fresh new talent, the brightest new talent you’ll see in the future,” she said.
Bohne herself is living a show-biz dream. She did some regional theater in Utah – “Aida,” “Annie Get Your Gun” – and was part of BYU’s Young Ambassadors touring show group. She also spent a few months as a singer at Tokyo Disney.
When she graduated from BYU in April, she moved to New York expecting the typical long grind of auditions and disappointments. Within a few weeks, she won the lead in the “Legally Blonde” tour.
Said Bohne: “I asked my agent, ‘Is it supposed to be this easy?’ and he just laughed.”