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Orfeh and the art of bringing blockbusters to Broadway 

The actress has brought four film characters to life on the Broadway stage, and she has her eyes set on a fifth.

Orfeh and the company of "Pretty Woman: The

Orfeh and the company of "Pretty Woman: The Musical." Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Tony-nominated actress Orfeh recently celebrated 200 shows as the spirited Kit De Luca in Broadway’s rendition of “Pretty Woman.” It’s her fourth film-to-stage role, and she already has her eyes set on a fifth.

“I would love to get my hands on Miranda Priestly,” she says of the Broadway-bound “Devil Wears Prada.” "There’s only so many more times I’m going to be able to play this kind of character before people think I can’t do anything else."

The Manhattan native has a type. She made her big-stage debut in 1998’s “Footloose” as Rusty, the lead’s lovable best friend. One year later, she moved onto “Saturday Night Fever” as Tony’s (John Travolta) friend/dance partner. In 2007, she earned a Tony nom for her standout Paulette in “Legally Blonde" — the “bend-and-snap” BFF. 

“People would have to get past [seeing me as the] urban, leather-wearing edgy friend and realize there are other factors to my range," she says, eyeing the open stage role of Meryl Streep’s fierce Condé Nast editor. 

Currently, she’s pleased to portray Kit in “Pretty Woman” — best friend to Hollywood sex worker Vivian Ward — on the Great White Way, a role she’s held since the production made its Chicago debut in 2018.

Below, the actress discusses how she became a Broadway favorite for stage adaptations of popular movies.

You’re no stranger to bringing box-office favorites to Broadway. How did you become a go-to for the casting producers behind these stage adaptations?

Oh gosh, no pressure at all, that’s what it is. I’m kidding. My Broadway debut was in “Footloose,” and I immediately got “Saturday Night Fever,” and I think when you’re hit with something early on, and you don’t screw it up, you’re on the shortlist for the next one when it comes around. Because I haven’t stunk up the room yet, I think they’ve realized I know how to negotiate the balance between the movie character and the stage. These are big, big movies, mainstream blockbuster films.

How did you land these roles? And “Pretty Woman”?

For “Pretty Woman,” director Jerry Mitchell [who also directed “Legally Blonde”] called me a long time ago. He’s like, “I can’t tell you what the project is. Be here at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning and you’re not going to say no.” That was basically it. That moment happened three years ago, July.

For "Legally Blonde," I had to fight tooth and nail to get into the room. They didn't want me. It's the funniest thing. Early on when I was in "Footloose," I was the new kid on the block. I was ripe for the pop-musical transfers. After "Footloose," all eyes were on me and they were like let's get her in for this, too. But for "Legally Blonde," I had to kill myself to get in. 

You take on roles that do have a lot of pressure attached. How do you balance fan expectations?

I think I have a sense about what people are precious about with regards to film characters. It could be something as simple as like with Annette, it wasn’t that I took on too much of Donna Pescow’s characteristics, it was that I had an uncanny resemblance to her in my costume, wig and makeup. It has to be something tying back to the original. And I think once you have that something down, you can put your own stamp on it and will wind up satisfying the movie fans, then the Broadway fans and everyone in between.

In “Pretty Woman,” how much freedom do you have to put your own stamp on the character?

I had a lot to be honest with you, but that’s because Jerry Mitchell and I did “Legally Blonde” together and he has a great amount of trust in me and I in him. With Kit, I wanted to toughen her up a bit. I wanted to expand the role and give her a back story. I wanted to see where she wound up. We knew where Vivian wound up. There’s more of a sense of closure with the Broadway show. I was able to ask for it, and was lucky enough to get a yes.

How did you work to modernize the story with a needed sense of female empowerment?

I think I’ve been lucky enough to do this a couple of times. Women in general are painted as adversary. This one pitted against this one; this one’s jealous; this one doesn’t want the other to be better in any way. The great thing about Kit and Vivian is that they’re best friends. She wants so much more for Vivian … that means giving her up, basically, but Kit doesn’t care. She wants the best for her best friend. I think that’s rare. You don’t see that a lot where women are really championing their best friends without an ulterior motive.

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