What's a girl to do? Elle Woods (Sydney Duncheon) has just been dumped. By Warner Huntington III (Dale Thompson), no less. Blonde, perky, sorority presidents don't get dumped.
Extreme circumstances call for extreme action, and Elle heads for Harvard Law School — where her ex will also begin his studies — to show her old beau she's no dumb blonde.
"Legally Blonde — The Musical" comes to the Pacific Repertory Theatre's Golden Bough this weekend complete with a live rock band headed up by guitarist Don Dally. Direction is by PacRep's Stephen Moorer; choreography is by Lara Wheelers Devlin.
Moorer and Devlin's jobs will include guiding more than 40 Monterey County performing arts high school and college students and a cast of familiar favorites, such as Stephen Poletti as hard-nosed Professor Callahan, Kenny Neely as the sympathetic teaching assistant Emmet Forrest, Gracie Poletti as beautician Paulette and Kristin Carder as Brooke Wyndam, the exercise guru Elle must try to defend on murder charges.
Begun as a book by Amanda Brown that first morphed into a 2001 film, the stage production of a musical "Legally Blonde" opened on Broadway in 2007, collecting multiple Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations.
It also opened on the West End in 2010, where it took home a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
The musical numbers span a rather broad range of topics — singing about the perfect outfit ("Omigod You Guys"), makeovers ("Take it Like a Man"), vicious professors ("Blood in the Water") and murder scenes ("Scene of the Crime").
Duncheon, who has performed in several PacRep productions, most recently as Penny Pingleton in last year's "Hairspray," says her favorite song in the show is "What You Want."
It is a number that arrives relatively early in Act I and serves as Elle Woods' substitute for a personal essay in her Harvard Law School application.
For Duncheon, the appeal of this particular song comes because it begins to hint for the first time at a personal focus her character possesses.
"It is when you start to see that Elle can think on her own," she said.
"While she might initially appear to be a ditzy blonde," the actor wrote over email, "Elle is very accomplished as the president of her sorority with a 4.0-grade average. Throughout the show we continue to watch her grow and prove that there is more to her than meets the eye."
If people expect you to succeed, your fate can be a mixed bag — the expectation sometimes a blessing that pushes you forward, at other times a weight that drowns you in the pressure. If people expect you to fail, it is easy to fulfill their expectations.
The real power of human nature is a third scenario: when they expect you to fail and something clicks inside to make you succeed despite them.
It is the feel-good triumph audience members get to cheer and, in part, where the appeal of "Legally Blonde" stems from.
"I have chosen to play Elle Woods as genuinely as I possibly can, because she is a complex character who does not fit into any stereotype," Duncheon said.
The actor, who is a natural blonde herself, has had her run-ins with stereotyping — at times in ways that have helped and other times when it has caused her trouble.
"Unfortunately (stereotypes) exist in our society," she said. "And the best you can do is try to break out of that box and just be yourself."
Of course, beyond whatever else we might take away from the show, one big reason it's there is to make you laugh.
According to the leading lady, it isn't necessarily the old stereotypes that are the sources of the jokes.
"The humor in 'Legally Blonde' comes from honesty. Elle has a huge personality, but she is able to laugh at herself and make the best of any situation," said Duncheon.
But her feeling for the depth of the show goes even further: "I hope that people, especially women and young girls, walk away from this show reminded that self worth is not merely based on the way you look and that there is always room for self-discovery."
Kathryn Petruccelli can be reached at montereybound@yahoo. GO!
What: Pacific Repertory Theatre presents Laurence O'Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Heather Hach's "Legally Blonde: The Musical"
Where: Golden Bough Theatre, Monte Verde Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, Carmel
When: Discounted previews 7:30p.m Thursday, Jan. 31, and Friday, Feb. 1, opening Saturday, Feb .2, and continuing at 7:30p.m Thu-Sat and 2p.m. Sunday through March 3
Tickets: $7.50-$28, available at pacrep.org, at the box office Tue-Sat 11a.m.-4p.m. or 622-0100. Two-for-one general admission tickets available for Thursday performances.