In Legally Blonde, Orfeh, who's stunningly, legally blonde, and the tall, handsome Andy Karl play the irresistible "trailer trash," hopelessly-in-love manicurist, Paulette Bonafonte and the object of her manicured, pedicured lust, Kyle, the UPS guy. Their onstage chemistry is as strong as their offstage chemistry.

They've worked onstage together five times, but Legally Blonde is the first time they've worked as a marrieds on Broadway. They are that Broadway rarity: a married couple working together. (The show's composers, Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe, are also married.)

They met during the last six months of Saturday Night Fever. Orfeh had been playing Annette and bringing the house down with her rendition of "If I Can't Have Him," when Karl joined the show. He hardly set foot inside the stage door before they started dating and segued into a mad courtship. In 2001, a week after Fever closed, they eloped.

Legally Blonde, based on the 2001 mega-hit movie that starred Reese Weatherspoon, is the story of Delta Nu beauty Elle Woods, played by Drama-Desk nominee Laura Bell Bundy (Ruthless!; also Wicked, Hairspray), who gets dumped by her boyfriend for someone "more serious." Elle, not exactly magna cum laude, follows him to Harvard Law School, where she proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.

Drama Desk nominee Christian Borle (Spamalot, Thoroughly Modern Millie) co-stars as Emmett Richmond. The show also marks the return to the stage of Tony and DD winner Michael Rupert as Professor Callahan.

Legally Blonde, with music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe and book by Heather Hach, opens at the Palace on April 29th.

During the pre-Broadway San Francisco run, the reviews for Orfeh and Karl were exemplary and only drowned out by screaming girls hunting down Karl. Of her salon super-diva Paulette, stuffed into hot pants and heels, one reviewer reported she was capable of setting the scenery on fire. Another loved her Fran Drescher-style comedics. Karl, it was noted, nearly steals the show and is akin to "walking porn." One went so far as to write that "Kyle, the UPS guy, has a nice butt!" (Okay, she was the teen critic for the Oakland Tribune, but now we know what attracts young girls to theater.)

Orfeh came into the business as a pop/rock singer with a power voice. She can belt "and if called upon, even do opera. It might make people insane. I've broken a glass or two, not even trying!" Adds Karl, "And a few bones!"

She admits she wasn't the producers' or director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell's first choice. "Because of my past (recording star with an international hit, songwriter), it's been difficult getting roles. When I played Janis Joplin (Love, Janis), people in the business thought, 'That's what she does.' Casting people think I'm someone who'll blaze you out of the room, not someone subtle and heartwarming. They're reluctant to allow someone to step outside the box they feel that person should be in."

Thinking "bend-and-snap" Paulette, played so indelibly on film by Jennifer Coolidge, was the perfect role, Orfeh became quite determined, "but they wouldn't see me for a year. I wasn't their idea – physical, age, height – of Paulette. They never see me and say, 'Orfeh. Funny.' They don't know my comic side. Comedy's where I live! Some started to get it when I was in …Trailer Park."

Karl had been involved for two years in Legally Blonde's road to Broadway. "Paulette seemed to be the hardest role to cast. They saw everyone. Nothing clicked. Every reading, it was somebody new. At some point, I suggested 'Hey, how about my wife?'" He stops, glances at Orfeh and smiles. "Or am I just making this part up?" "Probably," she laughs.

They worked on the parts at home. In the end, however, it was how Orfeh finally nailed her audition. "The seventh time!" she squeals. Says Karl, "They fell in love with her. They opened their eyes and came to the conclusion that we'd make a great team." States Orfeh, "It was just a matter of convincing them I'm not this hard-ass rock chick."

Orfeh and Karl may be the embodiment of the old axiom that opposites attract. He's 6'2", she's 5'4" (much taller with heels!). "I never understood why she'd be crazy enough to want to be with me," he states. "Oh, shut up!" she replies. "You're one of the most handsome men on the planet." Later, she adds, "Andy wasn't someone up on a screen that I couldn't get to."

In explaining what makes their marriage work, Orfeh says, "We're normal. We're not wrapped up in the business of show. When we come home, there's talk, but it's not the all-consuming reason for our existence." Karl says, "Our differences complement each other, and there's no ego, no trying to get each other's jobs. I'd be happy if Orfeh was making millions and I could buy a Mercedes." Orfeh, cracking up, may not think too much of that idea! "Even though I love to work, and I've been lucky to keep working, I'm not one of those persons who says, 'I've got to make the money.' We support each other's career." (He's now pursuing musical-theater composing.)

Orfeh's one-word name is not meant as pretension. "It fascinates me that people think I came up with it. Never! That's a name only a mother could come up with. Mom was big fan of the Michael Camus film, `Black Orpheus' (based on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth and set during Rio's Carnaval). The girl is Orfeo, and Mom got it into her head that was what her child was going to be named. Regardless of sex. So it's good I was born female."

A born-and-bred New Yorker (Karl's from Baltimore ) with a French and Italian heritage, she does say that her name intrigues people. "Someone recently thought I was Asian!" In public school here, she continues, "no one even batted an eye when roll call was called. I was the least unique person. Even when I got into the music business, no one batted an eye."


Key Subjects: 
Orfeh, Andy Karl, Legally Blonde
Ellis Nassour
Writer Bio: 
Ellis Nassour contributes entertainment features here and abroad. He is the author of "Rock Opera: the Creation of <I>Jesus Christ Superstar</I>" and "Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline," and an associate editor and a contributing writer (film, music, theater) to Oxford University Press' American National Biography (1999).
May 2007
A Real-Life Duo