‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’ shows its spirited movie roots

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 22, 2019

 Kimberly Elliott, of Canton, stars as Elle Woods in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

Kimberly Elliott, of Canton, stars as Elle Woods in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

Photo by Dale Pegg, provided by Grosse Pointe Theatre

GROSSE POINTE PARK — A Wayne State University Law School professor by day, Rachel Settlage, of Grosse Pointe Park, knows what it’s like to be underestimated.

“I also was a natural blond most of my life, so I know what it’s like to be a woman in this (formerly) male-dominated field and be underestimated,” said Settlage, who’s tapping into her experiences as the director of Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

Like the 2001 movie from which it arose, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” follows Malibu sorority president and fashionista Elle Woods as she pursues her ex-boyfriend, Warner, all the way to Harvard Law School, managing to get herself into the prestigious school using a mix of smarts and charm. With her pink wardrobe and perky personality, Elle is scorned by many of her peers, but she spunkily soldiers on, making new friends and proving herself.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” runs through Feb. 2 and is being performed in the Pierce Middle School auditorium in Grosse Pointe Park.

“I loved the movie when it came out, so you add music to it and what can be better?” said Settlage, whose own career as a young lawyer gives her unique insights into the character of Elle. “At the heart of it, I love her finding her inner strength and intelligence and empowerment.”

Playing Elle is Kimberly Elliott, of Canton.

“I think some of the messages in the show are very strong about what women are going through,” Elliott said. “But, it’s also uplifting and charming.”

Elle’s transformation is handled without heavy-handedness.

“I think (audiences) can really appreciate the strength of the female character, a woman coming into her own and building everybody up instead of tearing everybody down,” said Robert “Zak” Shugart, of Troy, who plays Elle’s friend, Emmett. “I think it’s very refreshing to get a positive outlook.”

Kevin Fitzhenry, of Warren, plays the ruthless law school professor Callahan, who is “as close to a villain as we get in this show,” he said. Fitzhenry said people who’ve only seen the movie version of “Legally Blonde” will learn more about the characters from the musical production.

“Rarely do you see a musical expanding on the characters, and this does a great job of that,” he said.

The cast also includes Sarah Seely, of Hazel Park; Joseph Domino, of Detroit; Virginia Lee, of Grosse Pointe City; Erin Getzin, of Harrison Township; Christine Mauer, of Troy; Ashley Trefney, of Detroit; Hannah Johnson, of Romeo; Niyah Crawford, of Detroit; and Zack Coates, of Detroit.

The ensemble consists of Lauren Berndt, of St. Clair Shores; Danielle Vogler, of Grosse Pointe City; Jared Bugbee, of Detroit; Trevor Sherry, of Clinton Township; Beth Teagan, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Rebekah Tiefenbach Sellers, of St. Clair Shores; David Roberts, of Grosse Pointe Park; Laura Bartell, of Grosse Pointe Shores; Fiona Donough, of Grosse Pointe Park; Jordan Prisby, of Clinton Township; Joanna Delpaz, of Macomb Township; Sophie Leszczynski, of Grosse Pointe Woods,; Emma Schulte, of Ferndale; Allison Roberts, of Grosse Pointe Park; Pete DiSante, of St. Clair Shores; Jordan McAllister, of Canton; and Eddie Tujaka, of Grosse Pointe Farms.

The modern musical features an upbeat score to match the story.

“It contains all of the charm of the original movie, but with high-energy dance numbers and songs,” Settlage said. “So, it’s fundamentally a fun time at the theater.”

Musical and vocal director Stan Harr, of Grosse Pointe Shores, is conducting a live musical ensemble that includes four keyboards, bass, electric guitar and full woodwinds. He said this gives the “delightful score” a “very full sound.”

“There’s nothing terribly edgy,” Harr said about the show and its music. “It’s a feel-good evening. Everyone should be able to walk out humming a tune.”

Pierce Middle School is located at 15430 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park. Free valet parking is available. Tickets cost $25 per person. For tickets or more information, call GPT at (313) 881-4004 or visit www.gpt.org.