Oh my god guys! Legally blonde the musical will open in Adelaide on September 29 as part of the Elder Conservatorium Musical Theater Diploma Class of 2022. This production will be directed and choreographed by none other than Broadway’s Nikki Snelson, who originated the role of Brooke Wyndham in the original Broadway production of Legally blonde the musical.
Nikki trained in musical theater at the Boston Conservatory and has since conducted, choreographed and taught all over the world, from Argentina to Paris, New Zealand to Scotland, Singapore to London, and more. With a career spanning 25 years, Nikki has extensive Broadway experience, including roles in Annie take your gun and Sweet Charityas good as Legally blonde the musical, in which she plays the young widow and accused murderer whom Elle Woods defends in court. She also toured A chorus line, Beauty and the Beast, Hello Dollyand Jonathan Larson Tick Tick… Boom!.
Prior to the production, Nikki sat down with me to discuss the college musical theater program, the show, and her career.
“I grew up in St Louis, Missouri, and in second grade I got very sick. At first the doctors couldn’t figure it out, but that meant I was often absent from school. My mom was a working single mom and she had to take some time off to be with me, she bought a bunch of VHS and, oddly enough, Fat Two was the first movie/musical I saw. Can you believe? This camp, tragic film… However, I found it incredible at the time and so she did more to me, including Grease a and Sing in the rain. That’s what did this to me. Seeing Gene Kelly do his thing, I knew I had to do it. I started taking dance lessons and my teacher encouraged me to take singing lessons as well. In St Louis, there is a large outdoor amphitheater called The Muny, where many artists got their start, including me. I’ve been very, very lucky to do what I love and get paid for it for thirty years.
Nikki was lucky enough to be cast as the Broadway original Brooke Wyndham. She discussed with me the creative process that led to the creation of the series and how she almost didn’t play the role of Brooke.
“We started doing studio work and doing series readings in 2004, but we didn’t open on Broadway until 2007. I knew the writers well and used to do gigs for them. Legally blonde the musical was actually ordered; it was not their original idea to turn the film into a musical. The movie producers actually auditioned a bunch of writers and I was on the very first recording of the opening number’Omigod you guys‘ which really confirmed that Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin would write the series. While they were writing the show, we would gather in their living rooms and sing and read the new material. I originally played a sorority girl in the first draft, and I kept thinking that they might have to launch the show soon, because I’d be too old to play a sorority by the time it hit Broadway. We got to act two and the opening number was for Brooke the aerobics instructor – I knew right away that role was for me. They let me read it until Broadway rehearsals. At that point, the producers had a small glimmer in their eyes that they could stunt the role with a pop star, but no one could do it. [jump rope and sing at the same time], so luckily I was able to keep the role. I had such a moment in my life.
After a successful run on Broadway and filmed by MTV for international TV airing, did Nikki expect the series to be the hit it was?
“We had no idea how the show would feel at the time. It was mostly because of the MTV filming; no musical had really done anything like this before. So when they told us announced that they were going to film the musical and air it on MTV and being out there in the universe was very exciting, I was very lucky to be where it all started.
Legally blonde the musical is based on the movie of the same name. The film transcends the stage perfectly, with its brilliant score from genius Laurence O’Keefe and a powerful message about being true to yourself.
“I remember when I first saw Revenge of a Blonde in the cinema, when they did the ‘bend and break‘ moment I was like, ‘What the hell was that and it should be on stage!’ Lo and behold…it did.
“Laurence O’Keefe’s music is just perfect in the show. I was a huge bat boy fan when we first met and since then he wrote heathers the musical as well. His music is just magical and he has the sharpest, dirtiest sense of humor that also shines through in his music.
Nikki is here in Adelaide to direct and choreograph a production of Legally blonde the musical with the class of 2022 of the Elder Conservatorium Musical Theater degree. I was very keen to hear how she felt about working with the next generation of Australian musical theater performers.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people in the States, but this particular group of young performers have been so focused and so determined. I can throw something at them once and they have it. It’s locked and loaded and ready to go. We had seven weeks to stage the show, but it was up and running in three and a half weeks because they are so dedicated. It’s also so fun to see the passion and drive they bring to it. It’s a very different world today than it was when we opened the show fifteen years ago, since the #metoo movement. The harassment that occurs in the series takes on a very different meaning and tone. It was great to see them get involved in this and discuss these topics as well.
“George Torbay has built a brilliant program here at the University of Adelaide. It’s only been around for four years and this year is the second promotion. There are all these incredible triple threats. They can all achieve the Heavens, they’re all wonderful actors, and on top of that, they can really dance. You don’t see that in every acting class. It’s very impressive.”
Legally blonde the musicaldirected and choreographed by Nikki Snelson and musically directed by Martin Cheney, will play at the Scott Theater from September 29 through October 2, including daytime and nighttime performances.
“When you first see Legally blonde the musical, you are engrossed in the amazing show business of it. It’s a show of a show. It’s full of colors, dance, music. But deep down, it’s really about resilience, about loving yourself, being true to yourself, and never letting anyone else tell you what you’re worth. I think that really resonates with people, especially now. We are now in a place where self-esteem, self-pride and taking care of yourself mentally is really important, and Revenge of a Blonde talk about that.
Legally blonde the musical opens at the Scott Theater from September 29 to October 2. Tickets can be purchased through https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing?eid=928390& .
Interviewed by Ben Stefanoff