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UCLA alumnus Kahlil Joseph stars as Professor Callahan in ‘Legally Blonde’ musical

2006 UCLA graduate and visiting professor Kahlil Joseph plays the villainous Callahan

Courtesy of Khalil Joseph
Visiting TFT professor and 2006 alumnus Khalil Joseph currently plays Professor Callahan in the national tour of "Legally Blonde: the Musical."

Courtesy of Khalil Joseph
Visiting TFT professor and 2006 alumnus Khalil Joseph currently plays Professor Callahan in the national tour of "Legally Blonde: the Musical."

Laurie Allred / Daily Bruin

Kahlil Joseph never thought he would wake up one morning and not know what state he was in.

Racing from one state to the next is just part of the job description for Kahlil Joseph, the former voice and speech visiting assistant professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and 2006 alumnus. Ever since late September, Joseph has been traveling the country nonstop for his new role as the villainous Professor Callahan in the national tour of “Legally Blonde: the Musical,” based on the 2001 original movie.

The role of Professor Callahan is a Harvard Law School professor who is baffled that a young, blonde Elle Woods is in law school, and he attempts to make her life harder. His character is as sly as they come, but Joseph said he still enjoys playing the role.

“It’s a hell of a lot of fun to sink your teeth into someone who is amoral and not your typical good guy. It is fun playing someone very intelligent, very calculating, incredibly articulate, very cunning and therefore very dangerous,” Joseph said.

This dangerous aspect of Callahan’s personality is revealed even more in his opening number, “Blood in the Water,” in which he tells his students that in order to excel in law they have to be sharks and go after the kill.

“He is very scary and is very smart and calm as well, not the type that is explosive. You get a very strong feeling of who he is. It is a slap in the face (because) it catches a lot of audience members by surprise,” Joseph said.

Laurence O’Keefe, who is on the creative team and composed the music and lyrics for “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” said that throughout Callahan’s opening track, audiences can witness a chronological journey through American popular music, from 1920s cabaret to late “˜60s pop.

“It’s a nice way to evolve,” O’Keefe said. “He’s a mad man. Callahan is an awesome, brilliant asshole who has a compulsion to destroy anyone in his path.”

Nell Benjamin, who also worked with O’Keefe to compose the music and lyrics, said that overall the music of the musical has a little bit of everything.

“Our feeling is that there’s something in it for everybody ““ pop to more old-school musical theater to European. It’s delightful, mish-mash,” Benjamin said.

Joseph described the show as energetic fun.

“It is two hours of a lot of fun. It is usually the first thing that comes to mind, the fact that it is such high-energy fun,” Joseph said.

Joseph’s new role adds to an impressive resume that has been accumulating since 2004. Previously starring in television shows such as “Days of Our Lives” and “24,” the switch from television to theater is a drastic one for Joseph.

“You got television, working all sorts of odd hours and working on camera, is definitely more piece by piece shooting one scene at a time. The difference with stage is you work on one run. They are both very enjoyable yet both require a different mindset,” Joseph said.

The 10-month tour, which launched in Jackson, Miss., on Sept. 21, has taken Joseph to places such as Daytona Beach, Fla.; Toledo, Ohio; and Knoxville, Tenn. Joseph said that the performers were always focused on performing a quality show, regardless of their location.

“It really is a blur after a while. We go where we go. We make sure we do the best job on the planet. And then on to the next venue and have fun in that city and carry on,” Joseph said.

Because of the constant travel across America, Joseph works hard to stay healthy on the road.

“I’ve been doing my best to take care of myself. I advise students across the country to take care of yourself, especially when you go to gigs like this all over the country. … It is a great time to see what you’re really made of,” Joseph said.

Although life on the road can be tough, Joseph said he still finds the experience satisfying.

“I’ve done film, theater, stage, everything. It is too early to say I’m having too much fun. I like to think of myself as flexible enough to do all sorts of vocal performance and several media,” Joseph said. “I expect things to go up from here on out. It’s going to be a blast.”

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