Never underestimate the bubbly blonde in pink.
Such is the tenet of “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” which opens Tuesday for a two-week run at the Empire Arts Center.
The story of the effervescent, unabashedly positive Elle Woods, “Legally Blonde” is the premiere production for the Empire Theatre Company’s eighth season. Under the artistic direction of Chris Berg, ETC will present five plays through June.
“Legally Blonde” is one of his favorite shows, according to Berg, director.
“I love ‘Legally Blonde’; it’s so fun," he said.
Based on a novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture, the play follows the story of Elle Woods who appears to have it all until her world is turned upside down when her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law School.
Determined to get him back, Woods ingeniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. As a law student, she struggles with peers, professors and her ex.
With the support of some new friends, though, Woods realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world.
“Our ‘Elle’ is great,” Berg said. “She’s lovely; be prepared to be charmed.”
Katie Spokely, who plays Woods, is appearing in her first ETC production.
“ ‘Legally Blonde’ was my favorite musical growing up,” said Spokely, a graduate of Fargo Davies High School and 2018 alumna of the University of Minnesota where she earned a degree in marketing.
“There was an MTV show about the search for the next Elle. My mom and I watched it religiously,” Spokely said.
About her character, she said: “Elle is such a happy, energetic person. I’m enjoying the journey of her finding herself and finding her self worth. It’s something I can relate to.”
The play’s message for girls and young women is important, she said.
“At the beginning of the show, Elle is basing her entire values and worth on the man she’s with. Later, she discovers strength and value in herself and realizes that she is strong, smart and capable.”
Spokely hopes that girls and young women who see the show realize that “no matter what someone thinks of us, we’re powerful, intelligent and capable,” she said, “and we can do anything we set our minds to.”
Although the play is challenging to the cast and crew, “with all the dancing, acting and singing, it’s fun to see all the hard work and creativity come together,” she said. “It’s an awesome show.”
In some ways “Legally Blonde,” liberally infused in bright pinks and sparkling costumes, redefines femininity, Berg said. “Pink is Elle’s signature color,” but it doesn’t limit her.
“(The play) is teaching you, don’t underestimate the girl who’s all in pink. She got into Harvard; she’s just like all those other kids. It attempts to undo those stereotypes; the West Coast Valley girl is more than just blonde hair.”
Along with Spokely, the cast of about 25 actors also features Casey Hennessy as Warren Huntington III, the ex-boyfriend, and Zachary Sanders as Emmett Forrest, the teaching assistant who befriends Woods.
Hennessy, a Grand Forks Central High School graduate, will be familiar to local theater-goers in his role as Woods’ self-absorbed snobbish ex-boyfriend.
Sanders distinguishes himself as a teaching assistant who helps Woods navigate law school.
“He helps her get a chip on her shoulder -- how to be there for her, instead of being there for Warner. It’s the ‘Elle spirit,’ ” Berg said.
The technical crew includes Diane Chabai, stage manager; Timmy Hennessy, assistant stage manager; Maddie Sharpe, music director; Patrick Kasper, choreographer; Amy Lyste, costume and set designer; Tyler Smith, sound technician; Sara Larson, light board technician, and “a small army of painters,” Berg said.
Numerous costume changes keep cast members hopping -- each has seven costumes.
Lyste has outfitted everyone, he said.
“They’re sorority girls, Harvard students, cheerleaders; they’re working at a hair salon. They’re everywhere," he said.
The show “is a great season-opener, with its very positive message of female empowerment,” Berg said. “It has stayed relevant, given the rise of the #MeToo movement and the current culture of men in power taking advantage of women not in power.”
It’s also a delight for those who love music and dance, according to Berg.
“It’s 70 percent music," said Berg, assuring that the audience will enjoy the performance as a whole. “It’s everything together -- the music, dancing, singing, the costumes -- it’s all-encompassing.
“It’s the perfect musical. It’s funny; there’s great music. It’s high energy, and everyone loves a high-energy show in the summer,” he said. “People will love watching this show all the way through.
“It’s a very entertaining show, unless you’re a grinch.”
If you go
What: “Legally Blonde: The Musical”
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Aug. 6-10 and Aug. 13-17; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11
Where: Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave.
Tickets: $24 for adults, $20 for students and military; $90 for season tickets include one ticket to each Empire Arts Theatre Company show this season
More information: Visit www.empireartscenter.com or call (701) 746-5500