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‘Legally Blonde’

Pink, perky, persistent Elle Woods on stage at TCR

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Diana Nollen  ::   UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 3:55 pm   ::  

Ohmigosh! Like, the bubbliest musical EVER is coming to Theatre Cedar Rapids! But don't be fooled. Elle Woods is not just totally blonde, she's legally blonde. "It’s just silly. It's one of those silly shows that tricks you. It fools you," says director Casey Prince of Cedar Rapids. "It’s got a gigantic heart. It so cleverly allows you to just have fun, that I don't think you quite realize how much you’re falling in love with some of these characters. When it reaches some of those penultimate moments, it really almost catches you off guard. There's some lovely little love stories woven into it." The details The 2007 Tony-nominated show springing from the 2001 hit movie plays Friday to March 23 on the TCR main stage. It tells the story of effervescent college senior Elle Woods (TCR newcomer Lauren Galliart) who refuses to watch her marriage plans fizzle when her boyfriend Warner (TCR veteran Tim Arnold) announces he needs to date someone “serious” as he heads from sunny California to Harvard Law School. Nobody dumps Elle Woods. If she can dazzle her way through her sorority years, she can bling her way to Boston and land on her feet at the venerable Cambridge institution, too. Harvard Law is harder than it looks for the fashion merchandising major, but she regains her sparkle pretty quickly and begins to outshine her stuffy ex. “It’s really important to realize she isn’t just some dumb blonde who wants her boyfriend back,” says Galliart, 23, a Dubuque native who’s staying in Cedar Rapids through the summer. “She is very goal-oriented throughout the entire show. And while it may start with the boyfriend, when she realizes what she wants and what changes she wants to make just for herself, she pretty much accomplishes anything she sets her mind to, which is really great and something I definitely look up to and hope to apply more in my life.” That’s just one of the ways art can inform life for Galliart, a 2012 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa. She has her sights set on staying in Cedar Rapids through the summer, then moving to New York to pursue an acting career. She’ll take a little bit of Elle Woods with her wherever she goes. “I really like how kind and positive she is all the time,” Galliart says. “Now especially in life — just being out of college and not really knowing as an actor where I’m going — to just stay positive is the best way to keep yourself afloat. Surrounding yourself with as many people that just want to be there for you and want to help you is something that I think is very important — just realizing how to help each other and how much love you can give each other.” She and Woods have their similarities — and their differences. “I am a blonde,” Galliart says with a laugh, “and being very driven, especially once I realize a goal that I want. If I see something I want, I will not let it go until I can get it or find some other solution for it. So I think being very goal-driven and ambitious is something I have in common with her.” On the flip side, “She is definitely a little bit higher maintenance than I am,” Galliart says. “Actually, doing this show has forced me to become more like that..” Physical is the touchstone for a show where perky catapults to new heights. “We’re really feeling it right now,” says director Prince, 35. “The way they translated that kind of vibe from film to stage is best described as ‘cardiovascularly.’ It really works the cast. It’s an incredibly physical show — just tons and tons of dancing and it’s really, really fast-paced ... it never really stops moving.” “I am getting such a workout singing and dancing at the same time,” Galliart says. “L.D. Kidd is our choreographer and he is a great hip-hop dancer, which is not my forte, but he really works with us and pushes us because he knows we can do it. When you nail a number, it is the best feeling in the world.” She loves so many of the peppy tunes in this upbeat show that even features a marching band and cheerleaders. But she especially loves one that takes a more serious tone. “I think my favorite song is ‘Legally Blonde,’“ she says. “It is such a gut-wrenching song about what it’s like when your dream dissolves in front of you, and how you have to go back to your previous life even though that’s not who you are anymore. It’s something I can definitely relate to.” Prince rates the show at PG-13, for some innuendo, but says middle-schoolers and older students will find plenty of messages to enjoy and take to heart. “Watching (Woods) on this journey of self-discovery is, one, really relatable,” Prince says. “and, two, what the movie does and what the musical does even better, is really embrace and have fun with stereotypes. “Obviously, the one they have the most fun with is being blonde, to really prove the point it’s not what’s on the outside that full-on defines us, it’s what’s on the inside,” he says. “The 21st century addition to that life lesson with ‘Legally Blonde’ is that it’s also OK to own what you are on the outside. In the case of having fun with her blonde-ness, and her sticking out like sore thumb at Harvard Law, and not making sense, and not fitting in the same way she did at UCLA, where she was president of her sorority, it provides her so many opportunities to prove people wrong,” he says. “Everyone assumes she will walk in and fail. ... She comes from money so she’s used to getting what she wants, only to find someone who’s willing to put in the work, is really smart, is more than she seems, is more than what meets the eye. “That’s the fun trick of the show. It has all of this fun with stereotypes, only to sock you upside the head and say, ‘But that’s not who we all are.’ You can’t categorically tell someone what they should and shouldn’t be and what they can and can’t do,” he says. “So suddenly, the little girls in audience that aren’t blonde like Elle have someone they can totally relate to, because she just continues to do what people tell her she can’t do. That’s the heartbeat of the story ... She’s beaten down pretty good but just keeps getting back up.”

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