With The Boiler Room Theatre’s “Legally Blonde” opening at The Franklin Theatre Tuesday, September 30, I recently had the opportunity to chat with Nashville area native Laura Thomas about returning to her home turf and taking on the lead character, Elle Woods, one of modern musical theatre’s most beloved roles. What follows is our conversation in the latest installment of my recurring celebrity Q&A, Rapid Fire 20 Q.
JONATHAN PINKERTON: When I heard you were coming back from your current home of Los Angeles to play Elle Woods in The Boiler Room Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde” I can’t tell you how excited I was. Having seen you in so many of their shows where you lived here in Nashville. How did this re-teaming with The Boiler Room come about?
LAURA THOMAS: In the best way! Sondra called me a few months ago and mentioned the idea to me. I told her there would be a few hoops to making it happen, and she (and the BRT ) jumped through each and every one! We dove in head first and it’s been such a whirlwind. A magical, exciting, pink whirlwind.
JP: As I said in my first question, I’ve seen you in a number of shows at Boiler Room. What has this latest experience with the creative team there been like for you?
LAURA THOMAS: It’s been just like coming home. Sondra, Billy and Jamey really did their homework with this show. Which is great, because it’s a beast of a show.
JP: Glad you mention Billy Ditty among the creatives at Boiler Room working on “Legally Blonde”. For my money, he’s one of this town’s most talented choreographers. How has it been working with him?
LAURA THOMAS: I agree. Billy has been, as always, a dream to work with. His choreography is so special and unique. He truly finds a way to stay true to the piece while keeping his own vision and voice alive in the work. He’s patent and kind and always on top of his game. Yeah, I’m a super fan.
JP: While the original space at The Factory in Franklin continues to undergo renovations, The Boiler Room Theatre will continue their current season with “Legally Blonde” in their new temporary home, the beautifully restored Franklin Theatre. What do you think of Boiler Room’s temporary digs?
LAURA THOMAS: It’s GORGEOUS. I miss the familiarity of the BRT’s Factory space, but it’s such a treat to perform in such a historic space.
JP: The show has a limited engagement with performances Tuesday through Saturday, September 29-October 4. From what I know, you’ve been juggling your time between Nashville and Los Angeles during rehearsals. Has that been stressful, or does it just amp up the energy of your performance.
LAURA THOMAS: A little bit of both, if I’m honest. But stressed in the best way possible! The cast has been SUPER understanding and patient with me, which has made all the difference and lessened the stress tremendously. They are so awesome.
JP: While jet-setting between Nashville and LA, you’ve also simultaneously been starring as Aphrodite in the LA production of “Psyche”. A modern rock opera retelling of the Greek mythological princess, Psyche. Anyone who remembers any of their basic Greek history, knows Aphrodite is the goddess of love. What does that character have in common with “Legally Blonde'”s Elle Woods?
LAURA THOMAS: Yes, I have been jet setting this month! There’s not a ton that these two women have in common, but if I could think of one, it would be, for better or worse, both women are incredibly confident in themselves and aren’t afraid to go after what they want.
JP: On the flip side, how are Elle Woods and Aphrodite most different?
LAURA THOMAS: Aphrodite was the villain of the show, where as Elle is the hero, so that’s one difference. Elle is so lovely and charming and everything she does. She gives her entire heart to everyone and is so vulnerable – in life and in love – the audience can’t help but root for her. Aphrodite is completely the opposite; she uses her beauty and power to take from others and get what she wants, she manipulates situations to destroy Psyche, and is completely ruled by revenge and vengeance.
JP: Anyone who’s seen the original film version of “Legally Blonde” knows it’s a fun take on the fish out of water story as wealthy, privileged, eternally perky Elle Woods adjusts to life in law school. Having grown up in Franklin, attending college at Belmont, then continuing to study acting in New York and now residing in Los Angeles, how relatable is that aspect of Elle’s story?
LAURA THOMAS: I definitely felt like growing up in my little Nashville bubble felt like my own version of Malibu! But I think that’s anyone, anywhere, who grows up in one type of environment and then puts themselves in another. There’s always going to be an aspect of change involved. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to live and work in Nashville, New York and now LA, but each place, just like Elle, has taught me more and more about myself, what I want for my life, and has stretched me as a person and a performer.
JP: “Legally Blonde” is also about friendship. To that end, there’s the unlikely, but undeniable friendship between the affluent Elle and man-hungry manicurist Paulette, played by Darci Wantiez. Paulette seems to be everything Elle isn’t. Have you ever know a real life Paulette, someone you initially thought you had nothing in common with, only to realize you couldn’t be who you are without their support? LAURA THOMAS: It took me a minute to think of someone, but honestly, my husband, Jason Sonn, would be the closest thing I have. We differ so much – he’s in sales, I’m in the arts, he’s 6’6, I’m not – there’s not a lot that we 100% agree on but we always seek to see each other’s point of view, which is so important. He’s also incredibly supportive, even if he doesn’t know exactly why. He’s pretty great.
JP: The “Bend and Snap” is always a hilarious high point in the show. What are some of your favorite moments?
LAURA THOMAS: I love Zachary and Bryce in “Gay or European”…they crack me up every night! Also, as Warmer, TJ is killing it, and singing ‘Serious’ with him is such a treat! There are too many to name, but those are a few.
JP: Even though I see that you’ve turned your Twitter account completely pink, aren’t you sick of the color so prevalent in “Legally Blonde”?
LAURA THOMAS: Much like Elle, pink is my signature color. So, never!
JP: They say never to work with children or animals. How has it been working with the adorable chihuahua who plays Bruiser?
LAURA THOMAS: Sophie (our Bruiser) is BEYOND adorable! And she has been such a trooper. I don’t have the kid bug yet, but I definitely have puppy fever!
JP: Among your “Legally Blonde” co-stars are several of what I call my ‘theatre crushes’, among them, Christina Candilora, Cat Arnold, Bakari King, Britt Byrd, Bryce Connor and the aforementioned Darci Wantiez. Who’s your favorite? ;-)
LAURA THOMAS: Now, you can’t ask me that! But I will tell you this: The audience will not be hurting for a pretty person to look at with this cast. Everyone is just so darn beautiful, and so talented at what they do.
JP: Good answer. I should expect nothing less from you, knowing how sweet you truly are. Aside from your current role as Elle, what’s been your favorite role to date?
LAURA THOMAS: Aphrodite was really fun, because I got to totally originate the role and do it first. I have to say, Elle has been a bucket list role for a while!
JP: If you could play any other role in “Legally Blonde”, whether you ‘fit the type or not’, what would it be?
LAURA THOMAS: Kyle, the UPS man. Yep, definitely Kyle.
JP: You as Kyle, I love it. What’s the first play you remember seeing as a kid, either in person, or a televised version?
LAURA THOMAS: My parents took my siblings to see a production of “A Christmas Carol” in Knoxville when I was about 7. I remember the Ghost of Christmas Past the most, because of the chains, but also because my younger sister yelled at him in the middle of a dramatic scene because she was SURE he was “looking at her”.
JP: Looking back on it, when did you realize you had the acting bug?
LAURA THOMAS: Since kindergarten. I remember playing The Cat in “The Bremen Town Musicians” and loved it. It took me a while to trust myself to really pursue it, but, yeah. It’s always been there.
JP: Whether you’ve been in it or just dreamed of starring in it, what’s your all-time favorite stage show?
LAURA THOMAS: “Rent” will always have a special place in my heart, because it was the show that made me want to pursue acting as a career. I also love “Next to Normal” – I remember watching it by myself in New York and not being able to breathe, I was so engrossed. Diana is a dream role for sure. I’m also moved by great performances – Alan Cumming was completely brilliant when I saw “Macbeth” last year in NYC.
JP: Have you caught yourself saying “Oh My God” to excess?
LAURA THOMAS: Sure! It’s hard not to get swept up in the infectious nature of this show.
JP: OK, one final question. After having totally check out all of your social media accounts, I keep seeing things about “Grape Girls”…..care to explain?
LAURA THOMAS: YES! “The Grape Girls” is a web show I have created with my fellow LA actor, Cloie Wyatt Taylor. It’s a reality based show all about wine and making it accessible to everyone, not just wine experts, in a fun, silly, not-so-serious way. We demystify wine and take the audience on a journey to vineyards, wine bars, everywhere, and ask the questions everyone wants to know about wine but no one asks for fear of looking dumb. We also pull a few pranks, get a little dirty and have a lot of fun as we are learning! For more info, you can check out thegrapegirls.com or follow us on twitter @thegrapegirls or Instagram @anywineanytime. Shameless plug!
Be sure and CLICK HERE to purchase tickets to see Laura Thomas and the rest of The Boiler Room’s talented cast in “Legally Blonde” before the limited run ends. With opening night already completely sold out, this is definitely one show you don’t want to miss.
To read out my review of the show, check back tomorrow morning, or click the ‘subscribe’ tab located at the bottom of the article to receive a free email alert when I’ve posted new content.