Jessie Shaw laughs when it’s pointed out that, as a 17-year-old brunette, she is neither legal nor blonde. But there she’ll be this weekend, playing Elle Woods, the star of “Legally Blonde” at Somers High School.
Shaw was Rosemary Pilkington in “How to Succeed” and The Baker’s Wife in last year’s “Into the Woods,” but those are just the school roles. She is also a veteran of Paul Perez’s Infinity Rep theater in Bedford, where most recently she played Roma in a gender-swapped version of “Romeo & Juliet.”
This week, she’s all pink and blonde – thanks to a “very fancy wig” – playing a character who is “much more complex than you could ever imagine.”
“She is smart and intuitive and determined, but she does play into the blonde stereotype of being beautifully ditsy,” she said.
The wig makes a difference, Shaw said, helping her get into character.
“It totally changed it up for me, gave me a whole new persona,” she said. “You don’t realize how much it changes things. I’m used to the stage lights going on and that’s the transformation. But this is really an exterior and interior transformation, from my speaking voice to my walk, to her confidence, which really makes her who she is.”
Some could look at Elle’s choice — to chase the man who jilted her (Sam Denler as Warner Huntington III) to Harvard Law — as a sign of neediness, seeking validation from a man, but Shaw sees it another way.
“She has to come to the realization that the object of her affection is the thing that’s holding her back. And that’s an important message for anyone. You can’t rely on anyone else for your success. You have to find it within yourself. Elle Woods teaches that really well. What a great message for girls or anyone: Be true to yourself and you’ll find success in life.”
The actress added that she often likes to keep a bit of every character she plays with her, even after the final curtain. From Elle, she said, she’d like to remember just that, “to be true to myself.”
“Legally Blonde,” 7:30 p.m., March 13, 14; 2 p.m., March 15. $12, $10 students and seniors. 914-248-8585.
Want to send out kudos to Gillian Norbutt, a member of the “Legally Blonde” cast whose rehearsal photos are capturing Somers musical scene by scene, shot by shot.
Here’s a sample of Gillian’s great eye.