Bailey simply sold it.
I don't know if that's what put her over the top in the final episode of Legally Blonde The Musical -- The Search for Elle Woods. They didn't show the judge's deliberation, so we really didn't hear what Legally Blonde director Jerry Mitchell was thinking. But even this Autumn Hurlbert fan has to admit that in the portions of the audition they showed us, Autumn sang beautifully, but Bailey Hanks (Photo, right, by Justin Borucki for MTV) turned into Elle Woods -- her version of Elle.
Maybe the key was in the one question they showed Mitchell ask Autumn: How do you feel about being a sorority girl?
It's a question that seemed to indicate he was having trouble buying Autumn in the role. Meanwhile, as Bailey performed, the judges were saying things like, "I believe it," and she seemed to channel her excitement through her performances, particularly Omigod You Guys.
So, Wednesday night, the Anderson, S.C. girl -- keeping Elle Woods in the South, y'all -- will take the stage of the Palace Theatre in New York City to succeed Laura Bell Bundy as Elle Woods. Another key comment Mitchell made was, "Neither of you are really there yet."
Has Bailey gotten there in the months since she actually won this contest? That's question critics will probably start attempting to answer later this week.
One thing that was nice was a reality show finale with a lot to do. So often, we are subjected to finales with tons of filler before we hear the handful of words everyone tuned in for. But since the judges had the last word, and it was all on tape, we got the last competition and then the announcement.
A bravo to MTV for a much better show and series than expected.
UPDATE: Playbill reports that all of the final four have been cast in Legally Blonde. Autumn is Bailey's understudy and will be in the ensemble; Lauren Zakrin is going to understudy the Elle on the first national tour, starring Becky Gulsvig, and Rhiannon Hansen is going to play Margot, Elle's best friend, on tour. I love that casting on Rhiannon. That role should work for her. Gotta say, I could also see Autumn as a Vivienne, Elle's chief nemesis, if she wanted to do that swing thing.
Check back later this week for our exit interview with Laura Bell Bundy, who will be in town early next week for her Take it From the Top workshop at Lexington Catholic along with her Blonde co-star and Search for Elle Woods judge Paul Canaan
For more on Bailey, USA today has a good story about her.