Tisch New Theatre, a student-run organization at NYU, will bring “Legally Blonde” to the Skirball Center stage on Nov. 1. Adopting the motto “rethink pink,” the cast and crew are imagining a new world for the musical.
Beginning their work last spring, the crew has spent several months of pre-production brainstorming ideas on how to reinvent the beloved musical.
“How can we look at it [‘Legally Blonde’] through a 2019 lens?” said Tisch senior Tim Sebastian, TNT’s president and the show’s producer. “It’s the ‘Legally Blonde’ that we all know and love, but we are looking at it differently.”
Tisch senior Micaela Brinsley, the show’s director, drew inspiration from Greek storytelling. For example, she plans on having a Greek chorus stay on stage throughout the entire show.
“I’m super interested in the relationship between the form of an art piece and the content of an art piece, and I’ve been able to use this show as a space to sort of dig into that,” she said.
Brinsley said she has torn apart the script and researched the themes in the show that she wants to highlight.
“There are rarely any moments where she [Elle] is alone, able to express what she’s feeling, until the second act,” Brinsley said. “We’re emphasizing Elle’s journey and what it means to be a person grappling with your own inner voices of doubt and confusion.”
Tisch sophomore Giulia Marolda, who plays the main character Elle Woods, said one of the main ways she’s able to find Elle’s internal voice is through the deep character studies that the cast has been working on together.
“We’re really digging into each of the characters and trying to find a more grounded place for each of them to come from,” she said.
While the source material of the show isn’t changing, the team hopes that their directorial vision and intensive character work will bring something new to the stage.
“This show has always been done in the same way,” Marolda said. “You never hear of a reimagination of ‘Legally Blonde.’ We’re really adding so much more meaning to it.”
In their rendition, Brinsley said, the hope is that the comedy of the show doesn’t obscure the gravity of the social issues that play out in the performance, such as sexual harassment and internalized misogyny.
“I think with this show you can have a really great time and engage with it but also leave thinking about some of the issues that we’re talking about,” she said.
Skirball’s 850-seat theater poses its own challenges and opportunities. While it’s not TNT’s first time staging a performance at Skirball, their past two productions ran at the SoHo Playhouse.
“We had to pick a show that would allow us to really live within Skirball,” Brinsley said. “We had to pick one that was right for the space, but also pick one that […] we could do something new with.”
Sebastian said one of the reasons they chose “Legally Blonde” was because it’s a big show fit for a large stage.
“It does bring challenges, like how are we going to do a proper lighting design, […] a proper scenic design and how will we stay in budget,” Sebastian said.
He added that TNT raises money through private donations from friends, family, industry professionals and brand partnerships. They use an online fundraising website that they have been promoting in hopes of reaching their $30,000 goal.
Putting on such a large-scale production entails an intensive rehearsal schedule. Excluding Monday, they rehearse for four hours on weekday evenings and eight hours per day on weekends.
Marolda said she doesn’t mind the time commitment and that she was always willing to give her all to the show, even going so far as to dye her hair blonde.
In TNT’s production, it is the process of self-discovery, and Elle Woods’ determination that is prioritized over all else. Brinsley and Marolda are excited for the NYU community to see this version of “Legally Blonde,” which places female empowerment at its center.
“Every sacrifice that I made I know is going to be worthwhile because this show is going to be incredible and really unlike anything anyone
has ever seen,” Marolda said.
Tickets for Legally Blonde go on sale Oct. 4 at noon at NYU’s Box Office.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 30, 2019 print edition. Email Claire Jones at [email protected]