When Rhiannon Hansen saw Legally Blonde: The Musical during its pre-Broadway run in San Francisco, the actress had no idea that she would have the opportunity to audition for the show on reality TV just a year later.
Hansen stars as Delta Nu sorority sister Margot in the Legally Blonde national tour, which makes its Chicago debut this week at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre. Hansen may play the “dumb blonde,” but the 20-year-old Utah native loves every second of her job.
Hansen began dancing when she was three-years-old, singing when she was five and acting when she was 11. She knew her future was in performing, but didn’t decide on musical theater until her sophomore year in high school when she was cast as Kim in Bye Bye Birdie. “I went on and was like, ‘This is it. This is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,’” she said.
Then came Legally Blonde: The Search For Elle Woods. Hansen had just graduated from college when her roommate came across an announcement for the MTV reality show on a casting website. Having fallen in love with the show in San Francisco, Hansen seized the opportunity to go to open auditions.
Hansen’s showing was a success which allowed her to travel with 49 other contestants to New York for the reality series. She achieved top three status before her elimination in the final episode. Yet, in a deleted scene revealed online, the judges revealed that they had spoken with director Jerry Mitchell about offering Hansen a callback audition for the role of Margot. “Not an important part. She only opens the show,” Legally Blonde writer Heather Hach told the teary, but excited actress.
Hansen then waited for the show to air before starting rehearsals for the national tour last August, spending her time singing the first lines of the show’s high-energy opener “Omigod You Guys,” a number which reveals the ditzy nature of her character.
“Dear Elle: He’s a lucky guy.
I’m, like, gonna cry, I got tears coming out of my nose!
Mad props! He’s the campus catch, you’re a perfect match,
‘Cause you’ve both got such great taste in clothes!
Of course he will propose!”
“Margot thinks she’s always doing the right thing, saying the correct thing, helping out. And really, it sounds bizarre to everyone else, but to her it’s normal,” the actress explained.
During the song, Hansen also “converses” onstage with Freddie, the Chihuahua that plays Elle’s dog Bruiser. She said the animal is smart, and that the conversation feels real. The dog relies on Hansen for cues – namely those that tell him it’s time to bark. “It’s a very odd feeling. I didn’t know I could be so in tune with a dog,” she said.
In addition to playing Margot, Hansen understudies the role of Elle. She calls the character “one of the best roles to play” and says the part was easy to learn because of her experiences on the reality show. The tour has also given the actress a chance to work with the original Elle, Laura Bell Bundy, who temporarily joined the tour earlier this year while star Becky Gulsvig was out with an injury. “I got to work with her and it was so much fun to be onstage with her because I had really looked up to her before,” Hansen said.
Hansen’s favorite part of the tour is meeting fans at the stage door after the show, many of whom are downright characters themselves (given that they often dress up). “It’s so amazing to me to see the reactions that people have to the show and how much people really get involved with it,” Hansen said.
In the future, Hansen would like to play another popular blonde heroine — Galinda from Wicked. But for now she’s happy right where she is. “Everyone that I work with is so amazing and so nice. It’s just such a blast to be part of the show.”