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Nothing dumb about this blonde as musical role mirrors life

11 Dec 2012 THE AGE
BY BY KARL QUINN


IT'S possible there's someone better qualified than Lucy Durack to play the lead in Legally Blonde, but it's not all that likely.

"I've grown up loving little dogs, really loving pink and being quite girly," says the relentlessly upbeat Durack. "Basically, my ideal role is the same as the ideal role of an 11-year-old girl."

At the heart of the musical (based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, which was in turn based on a novel by Amanda Brown) is Elle Woods, a dog-loving, pink-dress-wearing, girly bundle of life who goes to university to study law to win back her boyfriend. Of course, she turns out to be a natural, and along the way she learns there's more to life than winning the approval of a man who is only interested in the most obvious markers of value.

As it happens, Durack has one more qualification for the role she originated in Sydney in September and will bring to Melbourne's Princess Theatre next May: she studied law - albeit briefly - after graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

Durack, 30, explains that she was still at WAAPA when she landed her first professional role, in Mamma Mia!, but she didn't trust her luck to continue. "I thought that was a fluke, so I'd better get a proper degree and get a job," she says.

There are plenty of lawyers in her family back home in Perth, so when her run in the ABBA musical was over she enrolled in law at Sydney University. But while she enjoyed the course work and lectures and her fellow students, she felt something wasn't quite right.

"On paper, everything seemed to be working but I was just miserable because I was missing performing so much," she recalls.

"I thought about doing both but there's not much time to do anything else when you're doing a full-time law degree. So I decided to go back to musical theatre. I thought, 'If you're going to do this, you really have to commit and focus and do it as an adult'. And so far, it's worked out." Indeed it has.

Durack came to Legally Blonde - "the biggest role I've had yet, and I'm wondering if it might be the biggest role I'll ever have" - after three and a half years in the Australian production of Wicked.

As Glinda the Good Witch, she spoke in a high pitch and sang soprano. On her day off, she took a vow of silence to recover. "I was basically in solitary confinement, with my boyfriend in Sydney and my family in Perth and not able to talk to them, but it was the biggest goal in my life to be in that show. So I took up knitting."

To develop Glinda's speaking voice, Durack had turned to the films Clueless (with Alicia Silverstone) and, as chance would have it, Legally Blonde. She also listened to a lot of Tori Spelling.

This time around, she's happy to chat on her day off - "I sing a lot closer to my normal speaking voice in this, so I'm much more able to have a normal life" - though she could be excused for wanting to put her feet up. She has 15 costume changes, even more songs, and she's on stage virtually the entire show.

"I'm moving the whole time," she says. "I literally run to most of the costume changes. The white dress in my opening number is attached to me by magnets [for a quick change]. I have to be careful about leaning against the metal doorframe or I can get stuck."

It sounds exhausting, and you might imagine singing the same songs night after night eventually loses its appeal, but not for Durack.

"I saw this show on Broadway and in London and I remember walking out of the theatre I felt so good and on such a high and just happy about life," she says. "That's what I like to focus on when I'm doing it over and over again. It's a nice gift we're giving the audience if we can pull that off."

Legally Blonde opens at Melbourne's Princess Theatre in May 2013. Tickets on sale December 13 via ticketmaster.com.au

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