July 25, 2024


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Colorado writer declares ‘Legally Blonde’ criminally relevant | Arts & Entertainment

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A young woman born in 2001, the same year Elle Woods first burst onto pink-splashed movie screens with her empowering message for women around the world, is now old enough to be entering law school herself.

Oh my God, you guys.

It’s true: It’s been 23 years since the iconic film “Legally Blonde” was released, and 17 since it was turned into a Tony Award-winning stage musical.

Apparently, as Vivienne says at the climax of that musical: “Being true to yourself never goes out of style.”

Actually, it was Denver’s Heather Hach who had Vivienne say that. The Loveland High and CU Boulder grad was Tony-nominated herself for writing the book (that means all the non-singing lines) for the hit musical, which is now enjoying a significant homegrown staging through July 21 at the PACE Center in Parker – with an all-female creative team led by director Piper Lindsay Arpan. Last Friday’s opening performance was sold out, the energy was high-voltage, and it was plain as pink that the Elle Woods ideology is still fuel for young women’s fire in 2024.

“I think that all goes to the fact that ‘Legally Blonde’ is still relevant and still entertaining people,” Hach, now an L.A.-based screenwriter and author, said during a brief return to Colorado last week. “And that Elle is a character who still resonates and still matters so much to people.”

You know the story: effervescent Malibu girl is dumped by her ambitious boyfriend, so she follows him (and her heart) to Harvard Law School. But what starts as a plot to win him back turns into a surprisingly inspirational lesson that you don’t have to change who you are to achieve your dreams. (With impossibly cute live dogs on the stage thrown in as a bonus.)

It took a few years, but “Legally Blonde” (the film) eventually came to be seen as a kind of modern feminist classic. Hannah-Rose Yee – a writer for, appropriately enough, Stylist Magazine – called “Legally Blonde” “a film that manages to skewer the patriarchy, dismantle negative stereotypes, empower female friendships and never reduce its female heroine to the role of romantic lead.” While also being funny, smart and stylish, too. And the musical built on that.

Still, I asked Hach (also my former next-door neighbor) if it’s not kind of a bummer that “Legally Blonde” is still relevant in 2024. Shouldn’t this story be dated by now? 

HEATHER HACH the trouble with drowning 11-02-23

Heather Hach, who was raised in Loveland, returned to Colorado in November for a reading of her new novel “The Trouble with Drowning” at the Aspen Grove Tattered Cover in Littleton. 

“First of all, I think the character of Elle Woods is brilliant, and Reese Witherspoon was so singular in the role,” said Hach, who recently released her first novel, “The Trouble with Drowning.” “Second, I think it still resonates because it is just the most wonderful underdog story, and because Elle Woods was really ahead of her time. She always remained so unapologetically positive. She never said a bad word about anyone, and she always brought her optimism and fun to everything she did. I think women have always related to her because a lot of us are underestimated, and that is not going away.

“I wish we didn’t still need Elle Woods as much as we still need her in our lives – but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

That’s as evident as the day’s headlines regarding both a certain upcoming presidential election and the current makeup of the Supreme Court. Both feature real-life characters that seem like parodies of fictional characters from “Legally Blonde.”

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“It does kind of break my heart that the idea of a sexually predatory character like the one we have in our story (Professor Callahan) should be more in the rear-view mirror today,” Hach said. “Callahan is such an obvious villain – but at least in our story, there are consequences. It’s very sad to me that his kind of character still seems to be so often rewarded in our culture.”

There are several full-circle moments that make plain the staying power of “Legally Blonde” in the current PACE Center staging, which is co-presented by Parker Arts and Sasquatch Productions.

Kyra Archuleta Pepper Legally Blonde Parker Arts Sasquatch 2024

Kyra Archuleta plays Margot in “Legally Blonde” through July 21 at the PACE Center in Parker. Her co-star is Pepper, who capably plays Elle Woods’ dog, Bruiser.

For one, there’s Kyra Archuleta, who just graduated from Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch. She was 1 when “Legally Blonde” (the musical) bowed on Broadway in 2007. Before heading off to college, Archuleta is dancing up a storm (and carrying Elle’s beloved dog Bruiser all the while) as Margot – a role originated on Broadway by future Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford, a grad of Wheat Ridge High School.

Then there’s this: Carter Edward Smith, who played the good-hearted, rattily dressed teaching assistant Emmett Richmond in Town Hall Arts Center’s 2016 staging of “Legally Blonde,” is now, eight years later, playing Callahan, the pervy professor who fires Elle after she rebuffs his sexual advances.

“Well, I absolutely love the fact that someone who once played Emmett is now playing Callahan because it means that the musical is still relevant, still delivering and still beloved,” Hach said. “A lot of musicals come and go, never to be heard from again.”

This one isn’t going away. There’s buzz “Legally Blonde” will soon be returning to Broadway, bolstered by its recent inclusion on the 2024-25 Kennedy Center season. (Think of that as the Harvard Law of D.C. theaters.) “When I heard that,” Hach said, “I started to cry.”

All of this really comes down to the power of Elle Woods, Hach added, and how much she resonates with women. “She’s true to herself,” Hach said. “She’s strong, she’s fun and she’s brilliant. And she does it all on her own terms.

“You want to leave a theater feeling good. You want to feel more optimistic about the world. You want to feel like it was time well spent. I know that going to the theater is expensive and time-consuming, and ‘Legally Blonde’ is just something that delivers.”

Hach offers up one more full circle moment of her own, just to fully close the circle on the circles. This one goes back to New York circa 2008. Ashford was between Broadway shows, so she babysat Hach’s daughter, Harper.

“Now Harper is grown up and is going to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn on scholarship,” Hach said. “And she’s going to be babysitting Annaleigh’s son. I just love this whole connectivity.”

I asked Hach if she had a direct message for the cast and all-Colorado, all-female team now staging “Legally Blonde” at the PACE Center.

“I would just want them to bring the Elle Woods magic of positivity,” she said. “I know that I personally benefited as a human being by spending so much time with Elle Woods. I feel like I’m better for it. And I hope that she can rub off on them as much as she’s rubbed off on me.”

Ethan Walker Kayleigh Bernier Legally Blonde Parker Arts Sasquatch Productions 2024

Ethan Walker (Warner) has the thankless job of playing the boyfriend who dumps Elle Woods (Kayleigh Bernier) in “Legally Blonde,” performing through July 21 at the PACE Center in Parker.


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