The Arvada Center is the first in the state to bring us a regional production of the perfectly pink and poppy Legally Blonde: The Musical. If you’re familiar with the movie starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical promises to re-create all of the fun of the perfectly pink plot where wide-eyed, blonde-haired Elle Woods chases her boyfriend to Harvard Law School, and discovers that in love and the law, nothing is certain unless you pave your own path!
Hayley Podschun plays the starring role of Elle in the Arvada Center production of Legally Blonde. That means she has petite, trendy, adorable shoes to fill, both the instantly recognizable Reese Witherspoon, and Laura Bell Bundy, whose performance on Broadway met with critical acclaim. “I’m a huge Reese Witherspoon fan and fell in love with the movie when I saw it,” says Podschun. “I even went as Elle Woods for Halloween one year. I just loved the movie!” But musicals based on movies, while benefiting from the familiarity that audiences might have, are also challenged to depart from the familiar in some ways, while still fulfilling the audiences’ expectations. “I definitely took a few ‘Elle-isms’ from [Witherspoon and Bundy],” says Podschun. “But only a few. I’m my own person and my own personality isn’t the same as either of theirs, so I try to let myself shine through Elle.”
Elle is onstage for nearly the entire show, making performing the role an exhilarating and exhausting experience.”The only show I’ve had to do which was as non-stop as this was an off-Broadway show called Freckleface Strawberry where I played the title role of Strawberry,” says Podschun. “It was a 90-minute kids show that we did 10 times a week. It was physically exhausting, but Legally Blonde is more vocally exhausting.” Podschun can get through it, though, with a little help. “I have my awesome dresser Katrina helping me whenever I’m offstage. She has my water ready for me and my Singer’s Saving Grace Throat Spray. And when I’m onstage (this might sound crazy) I tell myself to chill out and breathe.”
Although it requires a ton of energy, Legally Blonde is nothing if not fun. “I love dancing in ‘What You Want’ because I get to be onstage with everyone in the show,” says Podschun. “Unfortunately, I don’t get to watch most of the show because anytime I’m offstage, I’m changing clothes. However, I do get to watch the very end of ‘Whipped Into Shape,’ and I love watching one of our cast members, Matt LaFontaine, dressed as a woman jumping rope. His ‘prison chica’ is hilarious!”
Legally Blonde achieves a noble feat, endearing a large number of audience members who are neither privileged, gorgeous, young or blonde identify to a character that everyone secretly wants to hate but just can’t. Elle’s strength is never taking low expectations seriously, and barreling through to do what no one thinks she can. Podschun admits that she connects with Elle on many levels.”I think I connected to Elle more in her girly ways first,” says Podschun. “I love pink, sparkles and wearing cute clothes.” But when it gets down to the meat of the character –proving herself to skeptics– Podschun is also no stranger. “There’ve been plenty of times where I’ve had to prove myself to people. Many times it has to deal with me auditioning for a role. I even did it for this audition. I went to the audition more to see if I could just sing the [pop/belt] music. Then when I actually got the part, I REALLY had to kick my own butt and believe in myself that I could do it.” That can-do spirit is the heart of Legally Blonde, and when at it’s best, can make for an inspiring, sparkly theatrical experience.