WALNUT GROVE — When Elle Woods turned down a dress with a complaint it was two years out of style, one of her sorority sisters commented it likely would have clashed with her blonde hair in any case.
Elle flipped her hair playfully and said, “It’s not that blonde.”
In fact, it’s not blonde at all, as Tia Braswell, the actress playing the lead role of Elle in “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” has straight, solid black hair.
“It’s really funny,” Braswell said. “Every time I get a line about being blonde, someone will look at me and say, ‘You’re not blonde, though.’”
Still, while Braswell may not look much like Reese Witherspoon, who originated the character in the 2001 film “Legally Blonde,” she said she has the character locked down.
“Tia’s a blonde at heart,” Braswell joked.
By the time the play debuts, Braswell should be outfitted with a high-quality blonde wig, which should cut down somewhat on confusion as Walnut Grove High School presents the show April 16-17 and April 24-25 in the high school auditorium.
Sunny Vidrine, drama teacher at WGHS and director of the Broadway musical this spring, said Braswell’s lack of blonde roots was never an issue during casting.
“I try to cast the role with whoever embodies the role the best,” Vidrine said. “I knew how good Tia is and she gave the best audition.”
Besides, the color of the lead’s hair was only one challenge the show presented.
One such issue was the requirement of two live animals in the script.
“That will be interesting,” Vidrine said of the presence of two dogs in the show. “We do have two live animals in the show and we’ve been working with them in rehearsal. We want the dogs to be comfortable on stage.”
Then there was the need for proper orchestration, as the provided score was not designed for a small music ensemble. Vidrine turned to junior Trent Largin, who serves as the music director for the play, to lead the music.
Largin said it was a challenge to take a full-orchestrated show and translate it for the show’s live band of two guitars, a bass, keyboard and drums.
“It’s a very well-written musical,” Largin said. “We’ve had to adapt parts for violin to other instruments to make it viable for us. I’ve grown a lot as a musician doing this.”
And there are always the usual challenges of live theater, getting the actors ready to learn their lines, songs, choreography and more.
Jesse Hood, who plays the male lead, Emmett, said it’s been challenging on that end.
“We’ve had some rough patches,” he said. “There’s a lot of dance moves to learn, as well as the songs. It’s the toughest show I’ve done.”
Still, Hood, who hasn’t actually seen the movie on which the show is based, said he’s excited to take it to the audience.
“I think our hard work will pay off,” he said. “I hope everyone enjoys it.”
Braswell, on the other hand, did watch the movie, and the stage musical, with the intent of being the best Elle Woods she could, no matter her hair color.
“I studied this show,” she said. “I love singing it. I think it’s coming along great.”
Vidrine is confident her students will be ready for opening night Thursday.
“I’ve got a real good group here,” she said. “And the show is a good fit for them. It resonated with me and I think it has a great message to deliver. We just want people to come out and see it for themselves.”