W&L’s Elle meets the real Elle Woods

Laura Bell Bundy, Broadway’s original Elle Woods, visits W&L for a workshop with the Legally Blonde cast


Laura Bell Bundy gives performance advice to Grace Vianney, ‘16, who plays Greek Chorus member, Margot. Photo courtesy of Laney Fay, ‘17.

Sutton Travis

Ever wondered what a perfect ‘bend and snap’ looks like? Broadway’s original Elle Woods came to Washington and Lee to show students exactly how it’s done.

Broadway and TV star Laura Bell Bundy held a master class workshop for W&L’s own “Legally Blonde” cast Jan. 27 in Keller Theatre.

“I was in disbelief when I found out that I’d have the opportunity to go to a workshop with Laura Bell Bundy,” Grace Vianney, ‘16, said. “I’ve absolutely loved the musical ‘Legally Blonde’ since I saw it in seventh grade, so honestly this was a dream come true.”

Bundy was nominated for the 2007 Tony Award for Actress in a Musical for her role as Broadway’s original Elle Woods, the main character of “Legally Blonde.”

“Laura Bell Bundy honestly is Elle Woods,” Hannah Dewing, ‘19, said. “She’s so bubbly and a little zany, but she’s also serious and knowledgeable about her craft. She gave really insightful notes and constructive criticism, and you could see the immediate improvement in the actors as soon as they took her advice, which was really impressive.”

During the first part of the workshop, Bundy worked with members of the cast on individual scenes or songs. Vianney performed her favorite audition song, “The History of Wrong Guys,” from the musical “Kinky Boots.”

“I’ve sung this song so many times, and I really thought I understood it, but [Bell Bundy] helped me bring it to life in an entirely new way,” Vianney said. “She asked me specific questions about my character and my lyrics that I would have never even thought to ask. She helped me make the story more personal and create a journey with the song.”

Bundy then watched and critiqued several of the company’s completed numbers. Dana Gary, ‘18, reprised the character Paulette Bonafonté, a comical hairdresser who befriends Elle.

“As Ms. Bundy helped me realize at the workshop, Paulette is a helper who willingly gives all she has to offer, and what she offers Elle Woods is perspective,” Gary said. “I think, from this point on, we owe much of the newfound spirit of the show to Laura Bell Bundy. After mere minutes under her inspired instruction, [students] would sing the same song again with unprecedented confidence and honesty.”

In group numbers like “Omigod You Guys,” Bundy encouraged the cast to create backstories for and explore their individual characters with enthusiasm.

“When you’re onstage dancing, you have to know who you are,” Bundy said. “You have to be your character. All of these movements don’t mean anything unless they are infused with life and energy.”

Cast members said they were grateful for the opportunity to learn from Bundy.

“Not every cast gets to work with the actor who originated the leading role of their production, so this was definitely a rare and appreciated experience,” Dewing said. “She’s obviously one of the most qualified people when it comes to giving direction on ‘Legally Blonde.’ I’m so grateful we got the opportunity to work with her to make this show even better than it was going to be.”

“Legally Blonde” will be performed March 10-14 at 7:30 p.m. in Keller Theatre. Tickets are available online for $10.