LEGALLY BLONDE (the musical)

Pit & Balcony Theatre Kicks Off its 85th Season with an Ambitious Contemporary Hit Broadway Musical

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 832   By: Robert E Martin

01st September, 2016     0

The contemporary Broadway musical Legally Blonde is somewhat of a modern-day phenomenon. Based upon the entertaining yet delicately insightful novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name, when it moved to Broadway in 2007 it grossed more than $1,000,000 a week on several occasions; and now Saginaw’s Pit & Balcony Theatre is busily making preparations to showcase this ambitious work as its 85th season premier, which will open on October 7th and run through October 16th.

With music & lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin and a book by Heather Hach, Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods – a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend; only to discover how her knowledge of the law can help others, which culminates in her successful defense of exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial. Throughout the entire production nobody has faith in Elle, but she manages to surprise them by defying expectations while staying true to herself.

Although Legally Blonde received seven Tony nominations and ten Drama Desk nominations, while it didn’t walk away with any trophies, the musical was recorded in September 2007 and aired on MTV in October. Following this a reality TV program was aired showing the audition process for the next person to play Elle on Broadway; and the winner was actress Bailey Hanks who played the role until the production closed in October, 2008.

For the Pit & Balcony production, Director Todd Thomas says he was drawn to this production because of the challenges that it presents.  “In most cases this is a pretty big musical with a cast for 35 to 40 people; and we have selected 25 fine actors, which is still big for this stage.  The orchestra consists of 13 musicians and I don’t know if this has been done at P&B before, but in addition to directing the actors I am also doing the musical direction, which is kind of crazy and a lot of work, but I’m having a good time with it. This play features some great music and has fun scenes and an excellent musical score from start to finish.”

Thomas says that initially one of his biggest concerns was how audition turnouts would go, but much to his surprise, he had fifty talented people show up, which gave him the latitude to be somewhat selective with his casting.   Cast members consist of Chelsea McCulloch in the lead role of Elle along with Donte’ Green, Danessa Hellus, Cara Baker, Jake Bird, Lauren Gray, Logan Labrake, Spencer Beyerlein, and Cara Baker, to name but a few of the talented actors gracing the stage. Choreography is being tended to by Natalie Schwartz and the assistant stage manager is Rachel Jingles.

“The music to this production is somewhat difficult,” confesses Thomas. “On the one hand it’s not particularly easy music, but on the other hand most of the cast is very familiar with the show and the soundtrack. We have some great singers which also makes me excited.”

As a director are there any specific themes or moral lessons that he attempting to elicit and emphasize?  “On its own the production is very entertaining and the music is a lot of fun, but the show actually does have a message. If you read Amanda Brown’s original novel, the basis of all this is really about being true to who you are and not being limited by the boundaries that other people and society put upon you. I don’t want this to be a heavy musical and certainly don’t want to take the fun out of it, but one of the things I tell actors in musicals like this all the time is that it’s very easy to become a cartoon character by playing the role two-dimensional. It’s important not to just focus on the song and dance but also the character – especially with the principal characters – so you can connect with them and know who they are and what they’re going through. This give more soul and dimension to the production.”

“Whenever I do auditions for musicals I always audition the actors singing and dancing ability, but also their reading ability and how they interpret a character,” continues Thomas. “I make decisions not only on how well they sing and dance, but almost like a straight play in terms of how well they can develop and project the motivation of the character; and I’m pleased to say that we have a cast with this production that is exactly like that – they are enjoying developing the character as well as the song and dance.”

“There is also quite a bit of dance involved with Legally Blonde, so I’m also very fortunate to have Natalie Schwartz helping out on that front,” concludes Thomas. “She’s only 18-years old and quite young but immensely talented. She assistant directed some big productions and has cut her teeth. She’s very creative and knows her stuff, so all of this makes for an exciting experience.”

“I think this will be a memorable first show to kick off the season with and a landmark for Pit & Balcony.”

Pit & Balcony’s 85th Season Kick-off Legally Blonde will run from October 7-9 and 14-16th. Tickets can be purchased by phoning 989-754-6587 or visiting PitandBalconyTheatre.com.

 

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