Elle Woods Set to Win Hearts in School of Acting's 'Legally Blonde'
Senior acting major India Jarvis to portray the iconic and savvy law student
It’s hard to resist Elle Woods, the perky sorority girl with a fondness for pink, who takes Harvard Law School by storm in the musical Legally Blonde. Based on the popular film of the same name, the musical is coming to 620 Sutter Street Theatre in May, courtesy of Academy of Art University’s School of Acting.
In case you haven’t seen either version of Legally Blonde, in a nutshell, it’s the story of what happens to Elle after she’s dumped by her boyfriend and chases him to Harvard. Determined to win him back by proving she can be the smart, serious partner he wants, Elle gains much more as she shatters stereotypes while remaining true to herself.
School of Acting instructor Clark Houston Lewis is directing the play and teaching the class that’s putting it on. He said Legally Blonde is the department’s most ambitious musical to date. Like a true Broadway show, it will include more singing and complex dance numbers than his previous successful productions of Hair and The Rocky Horror Show. In addition to providing his students with an opportunity to wow audiences with their music, dancing and comedy skills, Legally Blonde appealed to Lewis because it revolves around a strong woman.
“We really wanted something focused on a female character who understood her place in the world,” he stated. “Elle is perceived in a way that’s different from who she actually is. The show looks at the subtle and interesting way she handles adversity when she’s faced with it—not only from men, but also from other women.”
Senior acting major India Jarvis is thrilled to be playing Elle. “She is an extraordinary person,” said Jarvis, who has had big roles in several other School of Acting productions. “Elle is so kind and good, but she doesn’t back down from putting people in their place—in the best possible way—when she has to. The show is about being judged. People tell Elle she can’t get into law school because of the way she looks and behaves, but obviously she proves them wrong. I can relate to that; I think lots of people can relate to being judged in some way.”
Jarvis added that it’s important to her to portray Elle in a way that makes the audience get just how savvy and intelligent she really is. “The play is a comedy, but I don’t want people coming to the show and thinking, ‘Oh, she’s a dumb blonde—that’s funny,’” she explained. “Elle is so much more. And she just happens to like looking fabulous, too.”
Seasoned Academy actor Ryan Vasquez plays the male lead, Emmett Forrest, who befriends Elle at Harvard. Alexandra Cummins is the show’s choreographer.
“Alexandra is doing terrific work,” said Lewis. “She knows how to make the dance numbers exciting in terms of choreography and is also really good at working with the innate skills of each student.”
Lewis noted that the students love the music in Legally Blonde. Along with high-energy pop numbers, it includes poignant songs that elevate and deepen key personal moments in the play.
“We found out we have some really good singers,” he remarked. “Some have been working on their vocals and getting better; some are new to the school or freshmen. But they are a wonderful group of strong singers. There are some very vocally difficult roles in the show, and we’ve got some women singers who are knocking it out of the park.”
Legally Blonde will run at 620 Sutter Street Theatre May 4, 6 and 7 and May 12–14. All shows begin at 8 p.m. Admission is free for Academy students and faculty; $15 for the general public.