Who Would’ve (Delta) Knew: The Space for Asian Representation in ‘Legally Blonde’ | Arts

Who is Harvard Law School’s most famous graduate? If you didn’t say Elle Woods, you’ve got some serious rethinking to do. Between Oct. 28 and 31, the Asian Student Arts Project brought writers Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s musical “Legally Blonde”Agassiz Theater. This musical production would be a 175, if it could score on the LSAT.

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As the title suggests: “Legally Blonde”The film is based on the novel and the film. For those not well-versed in the classics, the protagonist, Elle Woods (Natalie Choo ’22), is a stereotypical sorority girl: She’s obsessed with shopping, majors in Fashion Merchandising, and wears lots and lots of pink. When her boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Avery Hansberger ’25) dumps her for a more “serious”Elle decides to go with him to Harvard Law School. Woods discovers that Woods actually has a passion about law. Elle now finds herself arguing murder cases in her first year at law school.

Karina Cowperthwaite ’23 wrote in her director’s note that one of her goals for this production was to push back on the assumption that Elle’s story is inherently a white one. Yet Cowperthwaite and Sam Dvorak ’23 — props designer and Crimson Arts Editor — did not simply insert an all-Asian cast into the original script: Instead of Richard Simmons, Elle’s next-door neighbor is Mandy Kaling; the signs in Paulette Bonafonté’s (Julia Riew ’22) salon are in Chinese; and apparently, Bruiser, Elle’s dog, loves “Squid Game.” Moreover, Elle’s internal Greek Chorus, played by Odessa Deng ‘23, Caron Sujean Kim ‘24, Sarah Latke, gets a Hercules-level revamping. This trio’Their costumes and choreography give them the look of a Kpop group more than a Greek Chorus. From Hello Kitty to a stuffed Gudetama, Cowperthwaite didn’t just recast the original; she transformed it into a celebration of Asian excellence in even the little details.

Not only does it create space for representation, “Legally Blonde”A great design team was also assembled. The lighting in particular, created by Isa Berliner ’23, thoughtfully complemented each scenes’ messaging. The stage was lit in a familiar Harvard crimson when Elle Woods arrived at Harvard Law. Callahan, her ruthless professor (Elio Kennedy Yoon). ‘25) sang about a lawyer’To succeed, one needed to be ruthless. A more blood-like red color took over. Like a drop in the “Blood in the Water”The song he sings about shows how the sanguine color seeped into his background. This possible commentary on the poison-like nature of heartless lawyers was then contrasted with the teal light that washed over the stage when Elle’s interest in law was first sparked — as she used her legal knowledge to help her friend Paulette. These choices effectively highlighted some of its subtler themes.

The Asian Student Arts Project, as Cowperthwaite writes in her director’s note, is wrestling with the hard questions: “What does representation for Asian students in theater look like in the Harvard community?” “Legally Blonde”The unexpected but amazing answer was given.

—Staff writer Alana L. Young can be reached at [email protected]

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