Interview: Nikki Snelson – Broadway Superstar Brings Her Legally Blonde Knowledge To Adelaide

Omigod you guys! Legally Blonde the Musical will be opening in Adelaide on September 29 as part of the Elder Conservatorium Musical Theatre degree’s 2022 graduating class. This production will be directed and choreographed by none other than Broadway’s Nikki Snelson, who originated the role of Brooke Wyndham in the original Broadway production of Legally Blonde the Musical.

Nikki trained in musical theatre at the Boston Conservatory, and has since directed, choreographed, and taught all over the world, from Argentina to Paris, New Zealand to Scotland, Singapore to London, and more. With a career spanning 25 years, Nikki has extensive Broadway experience, including roles in Annie Get Your Gun and Sweet Charity, as well as Legally Blonde the Musical, in which she played the young widow and accused murderer whom Elle Woods defends in court. She has also toured in A Chorus Line, Beauty and the Beast, Hello Dolly, and Jonathan Larson’s Tick Tick…Boom!

In the lead up to the production, Nikki sat down with me to discuss the University’s Music Theatre program, the show, and her career.

“I grew up in St Louis, Missouri, and in the second grade I got very ill. The doctors initially couldn’t work it out, but it meant I was off school a lot. My mom was a single, working mom and she had to take a fair bit of time off to be with me. She purchased a whole lot of VHS’s and, bizarrely enough, Grease Two was the first movie/musical that I saw. Can you believe? That camp, tragic film… However, I thought it was amazing at the time and so she got me more, including Grease One and Singin’ In The Rain. That is what did it for me. Seeing Gene Kelly doing his thing, I knew I had to do that. I started taking dance lessons, and my teacher encouraged me to also take voice lessons. In St Louis there is a large outdoor amphitheatre called The Muny, which is where a lot of artists have had their start, including me. I’ve been very, very lucky to be doing what I love and getting paid for it for thirty-something years.”

Nikki was fortunate enough to be cast as Broadway’s original Brooke Wyndham. She discussed with me the creative process that led to the show’s creation and how she nearly didn’t get to play the role of Brooke.

“We started workshopping and doing readings of the show back in 2004 but didn’t open on Broadway until 2007. I knew the writers well, and I used to do concerts for them. Legally Blonde the Musical was actually commissioned; it wasn’t their original idea to turn the movie into a stage musical. The film producers actually auditioned a bunch of writers and I was on the very first recording of the opening number ‘Omigod You Guys’ that really solidified that Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin would write the show. As they wrote the show, we would gather in their living rooms and sing and read through the new material. I originally was playing a sorority girl in the first draft and I kept thinking that they should get the show into gear soon, as I would be too old to play a sorority by the time it reached Broadway. We got to Act Two and the opening number was for Brooke the aerobics instructor – I knew right away that role was meant for me. They let me read it all the way through to rehearsals for Broadway. At that point, the producers got a little glimmer in their eyes that they might stunt cast the role with a pop star, but no one could do it [jump rope and sing at the same time], so thankfully I was able to keep the role. I had such the time of my life.”

After a successful run on Broadway, and being filmed by MTV for international TV release, did Nikki ever expect the show to be the success it was?

“We had no idea what a sensation the show would be at the time. It was mainly because of the MTV filming of it; no musical had really done anything like that before. So when they presented to us that they were going to film the musical and show it on MTV and be out there in the universe, it was very exciting. I was very lucky to be there where it all started.”

Legally Blonde the Musical is based on the film of the same name. The film transcends to the stage perfectly, with its brilliant score by the genius Laurence O’Keefe and a powerful message about standing true to yourself.

“I remember when I first saw Legally Blonde in the movie theatre, when they did the ‘Bend and Snap’ moment I said to myself, “what on earth was that and this should be on stage!” And lo-and-behold… it did.

“Laurence O’Keefe’s music is just perfect in the show. I was a huge Bat Boy fan when we first met and since then he’s written Heathers the Musical as well. His music is just magic and he has the sharpest, dirtiest sense of humour that comes through into his music as well.”

Nikki is here in Adelaide directing and choreographing a production of Legally Blonde the Musical with the 2022 graduating class of the Elder Conservatorium Musical Theatre degree. I was very keen to hear how she finds working with the next generation of Australian musical theatre performers.

“I’ve worked with a lot of people over in the USA, but this particular group of young performers has been so focused and so determined. I can throw something at them one time and they have it. It’s locked and loaded and ready to go. We had seven weeks to stage the show, but it was up and running in three and a half weeks because they are so dedicated. It’s also just so much fun to see the passion and drive that they bring to it. It’s a very different world today than it was when we opened the show fifteen years ago, since the #metoo movement. The harassment that happens in the show takes on a very different meaning and tone. It’s been great to see them sink their teeth into that and discuss those topics as well.

“George Torbay has built a brilliant program here at the University Of Adelaide. It’s only been running for four years and this year is the second graduating class. There are all these incredible triple threats. They can all belt to the heavens, they are all wonderful actors, and on top of it all, they can really dance. You don’t see that in every theatre course. It is very impressive.”

Legally Blonde the Musical, directed and choreographed by Nikki Snelson and musically directed by Martin Cheney, will be playing at the Scott Theatre from September 29 to October 2, including both day and night performances.

“When you first go and see Legally Blonde the Musical, you get wrapped up in the incredible show business of it. It is a spectacle of a show. It’s full of colour, dance, music. But at its heart, it really is a story about resilience, loving yourself, being true to yourself and never letting anyone else tell you what you are worth. I think that really resonates to people, especially now. We are in a place now where self worth, self pride and taking care of yourself mentally is really important, and Legally Blonde speaks to that.”

Legally Blonde the Musical opens at Scott Theatre from September 29 to October 2. Tickets can be purchased through .

Interview by Ben Stefanoff

More News

To Top