TRAVERSE CITY — Abbey Kaufman is blonde and blue-eyed, but the similarities to the ditzy heroine of “Legally Blonde” end there.
“I’ve never been the dumb girl in class or the dumb blonde,” said Kaufman, star of “Legally Blonde The Musical,” opening at the Old Town Playhouse today, March 1.
Based on the novel and popular movie adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, the show revolves around attractive blonde sorority girl Elle Woods — did we mention she’s from California? — who attends Harvard Law School to rekindle a romance with student ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Derek Woodruff). Although superficially a stereotypical ‘dumb blonde,’ Woods eventually earns the respect of her peers — and a Juris Doctor degree — with her valley girl-style intelligence, her genuine concern for others and, of course, her trend-setting fashion sense and matching pink wardrobe.
For Kaufman, a fan of MTV’s “Legally Blonde” reality show in which singer-actresses competed to become the next Elle on Broadway, playing Woods is the role of a lifetime.
“I like her energy and the livliness of the show, and the humor. It’s something I really connect with,” said Kaufman, 17, a Traverse City Central High School senior. “I was a big fan of the movie when it came out and the musical was a big pick of mine for choosing audition songs.”
Despite her experience, which includes roles in Central productions of “Grease” and “Fiddler on the Roof” and several shows with the OTP Young Company, the actress said her first adult role at the community theater has been a “wake-up call.”
“The (actors) are so mature, they have so much experience under their belts. They’re practical, on time, professional,” said Kaufman, who had to dye her hair blonder and age 7 years for the show. “It’s hard to think these people are getting out of their day job and coming here. And it’s all volunteer, it’s not like they get paid. It makes you want to work harder to meet their expectations.”