Empowerment goes ‘Blonde’ at New Village Arts with staging of legal-eagle musical
The peppy sorority anthem “Omigod You Guys” is the first song in the movie-inspired musical “Legally Blonde.”
And “Omigod you’ve gotta be kidding” was pretty much Kristianne Kurner’s first reaction to the suggestion that her theater stage the show this summer.
Having never seen “Legally Blonde,” Kurner — co-founder and longtime executive artistic director of Carlsbad’s New Village Arts Theatre — assumed the musical was basically as lightweight as the main character’s trusty Chihuahua, and she just couldn’t see doing a show that seemed an ode to ditziness.
“I wanted a summer musical that had women in positive roles,” Kurner explains. “One of the challenges of doing more musicals is that so many of the musicals are not good (when it comes to) women.
“And so I really wanted a musical — especially with all the things happening in our world — that really celebrates women and puts them in powerful positions,” instead of being “just there in service to a guy or something.
“And then I watched it — and I said, ‘Oh yeah, we have to do this!’”
Kurner gives full credit to associate artistic director Nadia Guevera for prodding her to check out “Legally Blonde,” which turns out to be “just this fantastic musical about female empowerment — about finding your voice and following what you believe, and surrounding yourself with people who share in those beliefs.
“And it’s just a ton of fun. We have a cast of 15 — it’s the biggest dance musical we’ve ever done.
“It is a perfect summer musical in that it’s a huge celebration, but it has this really fantastic underlying meaning of being true to who you are, and not feeding into stereotypes or letting them define you.”’
Like the 2001 movie that spawned it, “Legally Blonde” focuses on Elle Woods, the pink-loving UCLA sorority sister whose life is upended when her smarmy fiance heads off to Harvard Law and dumps Elle in favor of the snobbily chic Vivienne. (Elle memorably describes her as “somebody who wears black when nobody’s dead.”)
Not to be outdone, Elle gets into Harvard Law herself — and winds up maneuvering her way into some legal heroics.
NVA returnee Danielle Levas, a standout dancer-singer who has appeared in numerous musicals around San Diego County (including a 2012 ensemble role in “Legally Blonde” at Moonlight Stage Productions), takes on the role of Elle; Kurner says that “there’s nobody else in San Diego I can think of who could do (the role) better than Danielle is doing it.”
She’s part of what Kurner calls “a diverse cast, which I think is important. We have people come in to audition for shows that have traditionally been done by mostly white casts, and they think, ‘Well, I’m not going to be considered for this role.’
“And we do (cast them). Because that narrative needs to change.”
Elle couldn’t argue the case better.
When: Previews begin Friday (July 20). Opens July 28. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through Sept. 8.
Where: New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.
Tickets: $44-$47 (discounts available)
Phone: (760) 433-3245
The verdict on ‘Legally Blonde’: frilly, as charged (review of 2010 touring production)
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