It seems destined that 30-year-old theatre actress Maris Lea Fernandes would be picked to star as super-spunky sorority girl-turned-law-student Elle Woods in the Legally Blonde musical, based on the 2001 hit film starring Reese Witherspoon. After all, Maris has been said to be a dead ringer for Reese, looks and vocals-wise. “I take it as a huge compliment ’cos I’ve been a fan of hers ever since the movie came out,” says Maris. “She’s an incredible actress and also, a really great humanitarian.”
The rom-com follows the story of the pink-wearing, chihuahua-toting Elle who gets dumped by her law student boyfriend for someone more ‘serious’. To win him back, Elle follows him to and enrols at Harvard Law School, where she smashes stereotypes and realises her potential. The acclaimed award-winning musical premiered on Broadway in 2007, and finally makes its way here after more than a decade. Get ready to bend and snap with the New York cast in the fabulously fun musical, now playing in Sands Theatres in Marina Bay Sands. And while it may seem that blondes really do have more fun, it seems being blonde comes with its downsides as well, as we learn during our phoner with Maris, who’s very much a blonde herself.
8 DAYS: In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods tackles with stereotypes and being underestimated ’cos of her looks. Is that something that resonates with you?
MARIS LEA FERNANDES: Yeah. As a woman, and especially as a blonde, we get underestimated a lot. I think people can be surprised if you’re young, blonde and not afraid to voice your opinions. But the funny thing about Elle is that in the beginning, she underestimates herself too. But she slowly discovers her potential and learns to believe in herself. And that’s something I learnt from playing her in the show too. It’s a big show and a huge responsibility — there are a lot of lines, singing and dancing involved. And at first, I didn’t know if I was up for it, or if I could memorise all the songs, and maintain that energy for the whole show. But I just had to go for it and have fun while at it.
Have you been blonde your whole life?
Yeah, I was definitely blonder when I was younger. And now, I get highlights to keep my blonde hair. For a while, I wanted to go brown just to be seen as more serious. (Laughs) Like, when I’m auditioning for other shows other than Legally Blonde. But I’ve never done it. I’ve been blonde my whole life. It’s just who I am. You know, I feel blonde, by nature and personality. (Laughs)
What’s your favourite blonde joke?
Well, I like to just call them “people jokes”. (Laughs) ’Cos you know, we all have dumb blonde moments, but that in itself, is a stereotype. I don’t have a favourite blonde joke ’cos I don’t really like them. (Laughs)
And your favourite and least favourite thing about being blonde?
My favourite thing about being blonde is getting to play this character and bring her to life. And my least favourite thing is being underestimated and hearing blonde jokes. (Laughs) I think people assume that we blondes are ditzy or stupid — that’s what Elle encounters in the show, and she proves them wrong.
Besides Elle Woods, who’s your favourite blonde in pop culture?
Reese Witherspoon. She has gone on to do other things [after Legally Blonde] and she’s a really great producer. She has her own production company and she’s producing women-driven TV shows and movies with a female-led cast and female-centric storylines — that’s something I really admire.
When was the last time you had a blonde moment?
(Laughs) I can’t think of one. I mean, we all have moments where we forget things. I’m trying to think if there was something I forgot at rehearsals the other day. (Pauses) The director says I never forget anything [during rehearsals]. (Laughs)
Life’s better blond. True or false?
(Laughs) Yeah, people say that blondes have more fun. And I think that’s definitely true. I think blondes have more fun ’cos in a way, we let things roll off our backs. Sometimes, we’re underestimated and judged for [being blonde], and you know, you can spend your whole life fighting to prove [your detractors] wrong, or you can just let it go and keep having fun.
Legally Blonde The Musical is on May 10 to May 27 at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands. Tix from Sistic.
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