A chat with the cast of Hart House’s Legally Blonde

Yeah we got an interview — what, like it’s hard?
No need to head to Boston — Hart House Theatre brings Harvard to your doorstep. COURTESY OF SCOTT GORMAN/HART HOUSE THEATRE
No need to head to Boston — Hart House Theatre brings Harvard to your doorstep. COURTESY OF SCOTT GORMAN/HART HOUSE THEATRE

You have definitely watched the 2001 Hollywood cult-classic Legally Blonde. And we’re completely and totally sure that you saw Kim Kardashian’s Halloween spoof of Elle’s admission video. And, even if you deny it, you’ve guiltily enjoyed Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)…more than once. But, have you seen the musical? Join The Varsity as we ask Paige Foskett, playing Margot, and Moulan Bourke, playing Paulette, all about Hart House Theatre’s newest musical, Legally Blonde.

The Varsity: As actors, how was it bringing the world of Elle Woods to life? Is stepping into the shoes of such iconic characters a struggle?

Paige Foskett: It can sometimes be hard stepping into roles that have been done — and loved — so many times before, but ultimately you just have to find the heart of who these people are, and really bite into the text as actors. The more you do it, the more you find new and exciting ways of being this person that have maybe never been done before.

Moulan Bourke: As an actor I love bringing what people know as a movie to life. Many individuals who are not normally patrons of the theatre will come to this show. I believe it is important to respect our predecessors in these iconic roles, but to also infuse your own portrayal of the character. Every creative team and actor will have a different interpretation of this show and I’m proud to share this version of Legally Blonde with audiences!

TV: The movie has become a seriously iconic part of contemporary North American culture. Entire dissertations have been written about its place as a piece of feminist media. Has this cultural legacy and feminist lens affected your characterization or acting?

PF: I think if anything it just makes you really lean into the honesty of the story. It’s been really important for us to not make it a joke because the writing already lends to the comedy. We have found the power in who Elle is, and what she is fighting for. I think it’s so powerful to get to embody all the people in her life who rallied behind her or pushed against her and made her stronger. She is a total badass.

MB: Even though 20 years have passed, this story is still so incredibly relevant today. Elle Woods inspires everyone in this show by the power or her love. Absolutely, my characterization of Paulette was influenced by the heart of this story. This show is iconic and its lessons are prominent. Elle reminds Paulette to never give up and the importance of self-love. These women display strength, power, love, and sisterhood which I strive to have as a performer and as a person.

TV:  Even though it’s only been a little more than a decade since the debut of Ms. Woods’ foray into litigation, a lot has changed in contemporary culture. Did you feel the need to, or have you had to contemporize any aspect or the play?

PF: Saccha Dennis made the really smart choice of setting our production in the ’90s where a lot of these references and the writing makes more sense. I think it’s more truthful to the text to set it in a time where all of these references and the circumstances we see play out are actually really accurate. I think to set it in modern day there has to be a lot of changes made, and you have to go about it from a different lens.

TV: Many theatrical productions feature localizations, especially for comedic and dramatic productions. Is Hart House doing anything to localize Elle to a ‘foreign’ Canadian context, well aware of its setting in Harvard and are the actors doing anything to assert their Canadian identity through these iconic Americans?

PF: For Saccha it was actually quite the opposite. We put a lot of importance on figuring out who these American people are, and really leaning into that. There’s nothing Canadian about this version of the show. And Saccha made sure to catch us every time we said “Sowww-ry!”

TV: If you could distill your production to a few remarks about its significance, plot, or really whatever you’d like, what would you say? What is your production, in essence?

PF: I would say that this show really is spectacular because it is so fast paced, funny, and honest. Every character we meet in this story totally reels you in, from the lead roles like Elle or Paulette, to the store manager, to Elle’s dad. Everything is so cohesive and honest. And in our production especially the costumes, set design, lighting design, and choreography are so out of this world.

MB: I think this production’s essence is the power of love. Elle literally gets into Harvard to follow who she believes to be the love of her life. She finds the love and power of law through helping her sisters. She reminds us of the importance of self-love. This show is women empowerment.

Catch Legally Blonde at Hart House Theatre until February 1, with discounted student tickets on select nights.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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