Behind the scenes of ‘Legally Blonde’

Lily Martis

In the modern retelling of the story of a ditzy blonde turned serious Harvard Law student, 29 cast members and 10 crew members are preparing to pull off the Kent State School of Theatre and Dance’s largest musical production since the 2011 production of “Grease.”

The musical “Legally Blonde” will open on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. in the E. Turner Stump Theatre and will feature a variety of musical numbers, such as “Whipped Into Shape,” “Positive” and “Bend and Snap.”

Choreography by returning professional MFA Jim Weaver began in the Fall 2013 semester, with an emphasis on the musical number, “Whipped Into Shape.”

“A jump-roping number, ‘Whipped’ is the most unique,” director Amy Fritsche said. “Endurance-wise, it is the most hard.”

Those involved in this number practice jumping rope for 15 minutes every day.

“The choreography for ‘Bend and Snap’ has also been modernized,” production stage manager Lindsay Mandela said. “It now goes from a straight-down motion to a swish.”

Live dogs will be used in the musical. In the play, Elle’s dog, whose name is Bruiser, is played by Bruiser Heller, a Chihuahua that picks out its own clothes every morning. Paulette’s dog, Rufus, is played by a bulldog named Logan and was previously cast in a high school production of “Legally Blonde.”

The musical will feature 21 locations and 29 set changes with five different locations happening within the first 15 minutes of the show. The actors, along with the stage crew, will be moving the sets and producing an effortless change of scenery that is constantly in motion.

“The musical was made like the movie,” Mandela said. “The toughest part has been moving the sets.”

As far as the color pink goes, “the pink stays with Elle,” Mandela said. “The backgrounds are moderate so they don’t blend with the characters on stage.”

Costume designer Susan Williams used more modern looks for the musical’s characters. Elle Woods, portrayed by senior BFA musical theatre major Mackenzie Duan, has 13 looks throughout the performance and only leaves the stage for costume switches. Williams uses magnets and quick rigging to create what she calls “magical moments” in these hurried costume changes.

The costumes maintain “a strict color palette for the world in whieach of the characters live in,” Williams said, “to show the strict contrast between the world Elle comes from to the world she becomes a part of.”

Going along with the modernization of the musical, Props manager Hannah Graham added lots of technological gadgets, like iPhones, which weren’t popular when the musical first debuted on Broadway in 2007. The musical also features salon chairs from the Akron Beauty School.

“The last piece of the puzzle is lighting,” said lighting designer Margaret Peebles, who is using “pink, yellow and green light to create bright, dynamic colors on stage.”

The modernized combination of choreography, scenery, costumes, props and lighting will create “the closest reproduction of ‘Legally Blonde’ this generation has,” Mandela said.

This is Mandela’s first time as stage manager to a musical at Kent State University as well as director Fritsche’s first semester at Kent State University.

“The kids are extremely talented and my co-workers are extremely supportive,” Fritsche said

To keep up on all of the behind the scenes action for “Legally Blonde,” “like” the Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance’s Facebook page.

Contact Lily Martis at [email protected].