"I'm not usually a pink person," laughs actress Shannon Rider Urquhart, whose fashion palette has always tended away from annoyingly perky Valentine's Day colors. But over the last several weeks, that's all changed. "I've been pink crazy lately," she admits, "because Elle Woods, as everyone knows, is pretty much all about pink."
Elle Woods is the central character in Legally Blonde: The Musical, a stage adaptation of the hit movie. Opening this weekend at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, the play, directed by Gene Abravaya, stars Urquhart as the effervescent Elle. A fashion-centered valley girl from L.A., Elle uses her natural charm (and a full marching band) to win admission to Harvard Law School, where she hopes to reclaim the love of the Harvard-bound boyfriend who jilted her. Once at Harvard, Elle remains Elle, dressing the way she's always dressed: stylish, sexy—and pink.
"The costumes I get to wear are really fun," Urquhart says. "They are really high-end, design-wise, but also a little silly because of how pink everything is. In one of my costumes, I look like a huge bottle of Pepto-Bismol!"
Best known as the frontwoman for the Shannon Rider Band, Urquhart has done quite a bit of stage work recently, often appearing in biographical dramas about country-western stars. She's played Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Audrey Williams (wife of Hank). She's also appeared in local productions of Woody Guthrie's American Song and Rent. But none of the characters she's portrayed in those shows is anything much like Elle Woods, and the music in Legally Blonde is a whole lot more Broadway than country.
"Oh, this is definitely a departure for me," Urquhart agrees. "Elle is very different from the roles I've been cast in. There is a lot of dancing and singing in this show. It's such a challenge. I've been working harder on Legally Blonde than I ever have on a show."
The power of working hard, the importance of defying expectations—that's a lot of what Legally Blonde is all about, Urquhart has decided.
"When you believe in yourself," she says, "it doesn't matter what other people think. You just have to go for it. Elle learns that. And as she begins to discover how strong and intelligent she really is, her fashion sense even evolves right alongside her."
But, as Urquhart notes, she never stops liking pink.
'Legally Blonde: The Musical' runs Friday through Sunday, May 11–20, at Spreckels Performing Arts Center. 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm. $20–$26. 707.588.3400.