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'Blonde' brings girl-power to the Geyer

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Lexie Rohlf, 17 of Brownsville plays the lead role of Elle Woods in 'Legally Blonde' at the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale. Credit: Geyer Performing Arts Center

At first glance, perky blonde fashionista Elle Woods hardly seems like a role model for female empowerment. She is obsessed with her appearance, carries a little dog around with her and desperately follows her ex-fiance to Harvard Law School in the hope of winning him back.

However, when Elle is accepted into the prestigious school and goes on to win a murder trial, her true strength is revealed.

“I love the fact that she's so strong and driven,” says Lexie Rohlf, who plays Woods in this weekend's production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale. “It's awesome to play somebody who's so powerful. She realizes that to get what you want, you have to work really hard. It makes her a great role model for me.”

Rohlf, 17, was drawn to the character of Elle when she saw the “Legally Blonde” movie as a first-grader. “It's always been one of my favorite movies,” she says.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” premiered in San Francisco in 2007 and moved to Broadway later that year. It received seven Tony nominations and 10 Drama Desk nominations. The musical production follows the same plot as the movie.

Tricia Rohlf, Lexie's mother, directs the Geyer production with her husband, Michael. Their son, Jonathon, a theater major at Point Park University, helps to coach the actors.

“It's been a real family affair,” Tricia Rohlf says. “Some people go bowling, some go to football games. We do theater. That's our entertainment.”

Even the family dogs have taken up acting. Their Chihuahua has played Elle's dog, Bruiser, in three productions of “Legally Blonde” — once in a professional production in Pittsburgh, once at Brownsville High School and now in the Geyer show. Another of their dogs plays Rufus in the production.

Family involvement aside, Tricia Rohlf found the show easy to cast. “Kids love this show,” she says. “You're never short of people wanting to participate.”

Three of her cast members are Point Park students, while another travels from Penn State's main campus for rehearsals. “I'm using a lot of college kids who are also theater majors,” Rohlf says. “They are positively excellent. They are raising the bar for my nontheater majors.”

Raising the bar is an underlying theme of the show, and Lexie Rohlf is taking that to heart. She has risen to the challenge of mastering the show's musical numbers, some of which are technically difficult. “I've always been a singer, but this show brings vocals to a whole new level,” she says.

Meanwhile, her mother appreciates the deeper meaning that the show conveys to young women like Lexie. “I like that it's a girl-power musical,” Tricia Rohlf says. “It's all about giving girls the permission to be the best that they can be.”

Lexie Rohlf agrees. “It's so much fun, and it sends such a great message,” she says. “People will leave smiling.”

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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