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Laura Bell Bundy is Elle Woods in Legally Blonde musical

 

Laura Bell Bundy has lead in 'Legally Blonde' on Broadway
By Rich Copley
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE WRITER

Lexington actress Laura Bell Bundy has been tapped to play the lead in the Broadway production of Legally Blonde.

Bundy will portray Elle Woods, the California sorority girl who enrolls in Harvard Law School to convince her boyfriend that she's "serious." The role was originated by Reese Witherspoon in the hit 2001 movie of the same name.

"This is my dream come true," Bundy said in June, before the role had been officially announced, "because this is what I decided that I wanted to do when I was a little girl."

"You get to a point in life where you feel like everything you've worked for has finally paid off, and you're only 25," she said. "And you're really happy the whole situation has been perfect and you realize the reasons why certain jobs didn't pan out. Because if they had, you wouldn't be doing this."

Bundy's mother, Lorna Bundy-Jones of Lexington, said yesterday, "We paved the pavement for 19 years to reach this point. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. I always told her the sky was the limit."

Bundy has been onstage since she was a toddler and in and out of the national spotlight since she originated the role of Tina Denmark in the off-Broadway hit Ruthless! The Musical at age 9; for that she was nominated for the 1993 Drama Desk Award for outstanding actress in a musical.

She has been in several feature films, including The Adventures of Huck Finn in 1993 and Jumanji in 1995. In December, she'll play Sweetheart in Dreamgirls. In 1999, just months after graduating from Lexington Catholic High School, she started a two-year run as Marah Lewis in the CBS soap opera The Guiding Light.

In 2002, she made her Broadway debut originating the role of Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray, which won the Tony Award for best new musical in 2003. She followed that up with a stint as a stand-in for Kristen Chenoweth as Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked.

"I've been lucky," Bundy said. "I haven't been in a show that flopped."

Bundy actually got involved with Legally Blonde in August 2005, doing initial readings of the show for potential investors. As she has gotten closer to the start of rehearsals, she has been putting in specific work, such as studying the score and script, which calls for her to be onstage for all but a few minutes. She has also been practicing cheerleading moves for one of Legally Blonde's major scenes.

Bundy did that at Town & Village School of Dance in Paris, the studio where she first tapped her toes as a child.

While she was practicing there this summer, studio owner Luanne Franklin, who is the general manager of the Lexington Opera House, pulled out pictures of 3-year-old Bundy with the school's "Solid Gold Dancers."

Bundy, who lives in New York most of the time, made a point of spending time in Lexington this summer, because she says she knows that once Legally Blonde gets going, she'll be occupied by rehearsals and then performances. The show will have a pre-Broadway engagement at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre Jan. 23 to Feb. 24. It will begin previews at Broadway's Palace Theatre April 3 and opens April 27.

That will put Bundy in contention for next year's Tony Awards

Legally Blonde will re-team Bundy with Hairspray choreographer Jerry Mitchell, a Tony winner who will direct and choreograph the show. "He's a genius," Bundy said.

She says she feels lucky with the whole thing, including a show that has a positive message and is a reflection of herself.

"The show says something," Bundy said. "It has a really strong message for young women telling them not to dumb themselves down. I'm doing this more for the 8-year-olds than the Tony voters. ... This is one of those times in your career where you know that what you're doing is really going to mean something to someone."

And given the cachet of the show's name, it will put Bundy in the Broadway spotlight.

"This is the opportunity that a Broadway show will have to be much more into pop culture than most," Bundy said. "It's nothing obscure. It's very commercial. People know what Legally Blonde the movie is."

Reflecting on the opportunity, she said, "I'm kind of pinching myself saying, this creative team, these producers, this role, this show, this time in my life," she stopped to take a breath and continued, "I'm kind of like, 'Am I going to get hit by a car tomorrow?' because it looks a little too good to be true."

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Laura Bell Bundy

Birthdate: April 10, 1981.

Birthplace: Lexington.

Parents: Lorna Bundy-Jones and Don Bundy, both of Lexington.

Education: The Lexington School, Lexington Catholic High School (graduated 1999).

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Stage: Originated role of Tina Denmark in Ruthless! The Musical (off-Broadway); Louisa in national tour of The Sound of Music with Marie Osmond; played Dainty June in Gypsy with Deborah Gibson at the Papermill Playhouse, Millburn, N.J.; originated role of Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray (Broadway); played Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked (Broadway); will originate role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (Broadway).

Film: Susan Wilks in The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993); Courtney Aspinall in Life with Mikey (1993); Young Sarah Whittle in Jumanji (1995); Sweetheart in Dreamgirls (December 2006).

TV: Marah Lewis in The Guiding Light (1999-2001); guest roles on Home Improvement, Strangers With Candy, All Grown Up, Veronica Mars, Cold Case and Modern Men.


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