Laura Bell Bundy took her final bow as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde -- The Musical on Broadway last night. Tonight at 10 -- really closer to 11 -- her successor will be named on MTV and Wednesday night, the winner will make her Broadway debut.
It's not quite that breathless. The winner was actually selected before Legally Blonde The Musical -- The Search for Elle Woods even started. In an interview with Laura last week, we said we were going to refrain from asking her who it was, because we wanted to be surprised, and she made some quip about being sued for $5 million if she told anyone, anyway.
But how much of a surprise will it be? Well, here in Laura's home town, we have a habit of handicapping these sorts of things like horse races. So, here's one reporter's take on the final three:
Bailey Hanks, 15-1
For her: She really looks the part and has shown some spark through the auditions, particularly in dancing, where it seems she would excel in numbers like What You Want and Bend and Snap. She also had exceptional good bad luck -- that's not a misprint -- last week when she was given the wrong hat for What You Want audition but made it work for her. That showed some real stage smarts at handling things when they go wrong, and with eight shows a week, things do go wrong. Just ask Laura.
Against her: She is young, 20, and very green. I believe she said that this was her first time in New York. Her excellence has mostly been in execution too, and the judges have voiced reservations about her ability to connect with some of the emotional depth of her character -- yes, you naysayers, there is emotional depth to Elle. While they like her, the judges and Mitchell may conclude Florence, S.C. to Elle Woods on Broadway is too much of a vertical leap.
Rhiannon Hansen, 50-1
Against her: Character is probably what has pulled her through. But there is no part of the triple threat she excels at. In last week's audition, she left serious questions about her stamina to handle a role that requires tremendous stamina. She's also demonstrated some real emotional fragility, which can be devastating in a world like Broadway. When we left the show last week, the judges still had one person to eliminate before the finals in front of director Jerry Mitchell, and it is hard to imagine the scenario in which Rhiannon gets through.
Autumn Hurlbert, 5-1
For her: She has the best voice and acting chops of the remaining competitors, and in areas where she's weak, she has shown an ability to learn. At 27, she's also the oldest of the remaining competitors and, though she's given us a few head-clasping moments, has the most maturity. That maturity also puts her in the best place to handle what will probably be a tough position, being the Broadway lead selected on a reality show.
Against her: Five-to-one are not mortal-lock odds, and there are some questions about Autumn. Is she right for the part? It's easy to see her on Broadway, but not necessarily as Elle Woods. While she's got the singing and acting, Autumn's dancing has been her weak point, and it's a big part of the role. So, if Mitchell is willing to gamble, he may pass on this safe pick.
We'll be watching tonight.