Musical Adaptation of Hit Film Kicks Off 2019-2020 Season with July 26 Opening
Legally Blonde The Musical
Sponsored by Simmons Bank
Performances: July 26 & 27, August 2 & 3, 7:30 p.m.; July 28 & August 4, 2 p.m.
Catherine M. Bellamy Theatre, Arts & Science Center, 701 S. Main St., Pine Bluff
Tickets: $18 for ASC members, $22 for nonmembers, and $15 for students.
Purchase tickets online, in person at ASC, or by calling 870.536.3375. Season tickets are also available to purchase in person or by phone.
Director: Lindsey Collins
Musical Director: Faron Wilson
Choreographer: Bethany Gere
Book by Heather Hach
Music and Lyrics by Lawrence O’Keefe and Nell Bridges
Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM Motion Picture
By Shannon Frazeur
The Arts & Science Center is kicking off its 2019-2020 theatre season this summer with Legally Blonde The Musical, opening Friday, July 26. The production is the first of four ASC productions of the season.
“It’s a pop-rock ‘n’ roll musical,” the show’s director Lindsey Collins said. “The music is different from any other kind of music from the recent shows in that it’s a super-fun, high-energy, from start-to-finish musical.”
Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical follows Elle Woods, a pretty, perky young woman from Malibu. When we meet Elle, she is finishing her studies—fashion merchandising, of course—at the University of California in Los Angeles, and living with her Delta Nu sisters and her Chihuahua, Bruiser, in the sorority house.
Elle thinks her college sweetheart, Warner, is going to propose. Instead, he breaks up with her, telling her that he needs less of a “Marilyn” and more of a “Jackie” as his life partner because he wants to be a senator.
Warner is heading across the country to begin studies at Harvard Law School, so in an attempt to follow him and win him back, Elle applies—in her own flashy way—to the prestigious school.
To the surprise of everyone—especially Warner—she is admitted and joins Warner in the classroom. On the first day, Criminal Law 101 Professor Callahan throws naïve and unprepared Elle out of class, insisting that she only return when she is ready to learn.
“At first, she’s very flaky and not into it,” Collins said.
Meanwhile, Warner has already found his “Jackie” in fellow law student and brunette Vivienne.
Frustrated that both her law studies and efforts to win back Warner are failing, Elle is visited by a Greek chorus—her sorority sisters from Delta Nu. They work to help Elle win Warner back and encourage her to stay positive. Elle also befriends teaching assistant Emmett and hairdresser Paulette.
“Through meeting new people, she finds her way and finds that she’s good at being a lawyer,” Collins explained.
“It’s the story of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ because she’s this pretty blonde package but she’s got a brain.”
Audience members can look forward to lots of dancing and laughs.
“All the characters in the cast are fun. It’s kind of a parody of how people in college are, versus how things happen later on in the real world. When you’re in college, you are kind of in this bubble of ‘untouchableness,’ ‘I’m not affected by what’s going to happen when I grow up,’ and it leads into, ‘Oh no, I am a grownup now. This is how I need to take the steps to become a better one.’ But audiences can expect a lot of laughs and tapping your toes, dancing-in-your seat hilarity. It’s a really super fun ‘Let’s escape reality for two hours’ with something that’s just fun.”
Cast and Crew
The Legally Blonde cast is a mix of familiar faces and performers new to the ASC stage.
“This cast is veteran performers, which makes my job a lot easier as a director,” Collins said. “It is a lot of fun to do a musical with a ‘green’ cast, because you don’t have any bad habits to break. But with a show of this magnitude—it’s a monster show—everything is bigger than it has been at the Center. And with that, and having had people who’ve done shows before, it makes it a lot easier in the rehearsal process. There’s nothing I have to teach anyone—I can strictly work on their performances and how to help them grow and be a better performer for this specific show.”
Makayla Shipe of Bryant stars as Elle Woods. This is the 16-year-old’s first ASC production, but she is no stranger to the stage. Shipe has performed at Arkansas Repertory Theater and The Studio Theatre in Little Rock, and The Royal Theatre in Benton.
“She’s the whole package,” Collins said. “She has immense talent. I would not be surprised to see her go on to bigger and better things, theatrically. She has that spark, the talent, the drive, and when we had to make the switch from Memphisand we put out the announcement about Legally Blonde, she was one of the first people messaging me about auditions to ensure that she could come audition on a certain day. We were really lucky and blessed to have someone with the caliber of talent that she has.”
Emmett is played by Ethan Patterson. The 22-year-old is from Little Rock and has also been in several community theater shows in the central Arkansas area.
Travis Mosler of Pine Bluff also makes his ASC debut as Warner. He has performed at The Arkansas Repertory Theater and other theaters in the Little Rock area.
Paulette is played by White Hall’s Tiffany Lowery, a returning ASC performer. “Tiffany has not been in a play production since we did Annieabout eight years ago,” Collins said. “She’s been in a lot of Razzle Dazzles. We’re exciting about having her and bringing her back into the fold.”
Professor Callahan is played by White Hall’s Jonathan Hoover, who is ASC’s 2019 Catherine M. Bellamy Award for Performing Arts winner. “It was almost as if the role was written for him,” Collins said. “It’s got that Billy Flynn from Chicago feel about it, which I think Jonathan will be amazing in.” He’s an ASC veteran as well, with 11 years of shows under his belt including as director (Willy Wonka and Through the Looking Glass).
Tracy Sutherland of Pine Bluff returns after a three-year hiatus from the ASC stage in the role of Vivienne.
The trio of Delta Nus — Emily Burris, Kelsey Kerney, and Madison Carson—are also familiar with the ASC stage. Their most recent ASC appearances were in last summer’s musical production of Sister Act.
“Other ensemble members involved have been in countless shows here at the Center, and we have a sprinkling of brand-new ones who we’re really thrilled to have part of the production.
“I think this show we have four or five brand-new, 100 percent never-been-on-a-stage performers, and the rest have either been in a show here or have been in a show in the Little Rock or southeastern Arkansas regions. It consists of people from Little Rock, Bryant, Star City, Woodlawn, Rison, White Hall, and Pine Bluff.
“It’s really showcasing talent from across Arkansas—not just Pine Bluff. It’s a cornucopia of talent from all over the entire southeast Arkansas area. And we’re completely thrilled with everybody who’s in the show.”
Collins’ excitement over the Legally Blonde players extends to the crew.
“I have an amazing production team,” she said. Joel Anderson is back as assistant director, the role he served in for last year’s Sister Act. Bethany Gere is also back as choreographer—she was choreographer for Sister Act. Kayla Lake—last seen as an ensemble nun in Sister Act—is stage manager.
Longtime ASC musical presence Faron Wilson returns as musical director.
“Faron is one of the best musical directors in the state, if possible, in the United States.” Collins said. “Faron has been doing musicals here since 1986 and he has directed some of the best-selling musicals that we’ve ever done here. To have him on board here is beyond lucky.”
Also lending a vital hand to the production behind the scenes are ASC’s three theatre interns. Allie Alexander (a senior at the University of Oklahoma) and Gage Pipkin (a sophomore at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock) are handling many of the technical aspects. Alicia McCree, a Merchandising, Textiles and Design senior at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is assisting with costumes.
Pipkin is also part of the Legally Blonde ensemble.
Theatre Camp students also helped make props for the production as part of the camp’s curriculum.
Volunteers interesting in helping with the production are welcome.
“We are ALWAYS in need of crew members,” Collins said. “This show is a monster, set-wise. We have scene change, after scene change, after scene change. And everything is a fluid movement—there’s no blackouts—it fluidly moves to the next scene.
“We always need people to help with anything—set construction, being on the crew.”
This is the Collins’ second ASC production to helm. She made her directorial debut in July 2018 with Sister Act, which sold out all of its four performances.
Collins, who has been involved at ASC since she was a teenager in 2001, is also leading ASC’s recharged theatre program and theatre education programming. She joined the staff part-time in September 2018 and became a full-time employee in March 2019.
“When the position became available as part-time, I jumped at it,” Collins said. “When you’re like 15 years old and you’ve found your calling—that’s what I’ve got my bachelor’s degree in, theater education, so when the part-time position became available it was like, ‘Absolutely.’ I’ve been working on this since I was 15.
“I wake up every morning excited to come to work because I love this place. I love what it means to other people, and I’m beyond excited and blessed to have a full-time position here. I hope that I can add something to it to help bring awareness to the Center and revive the theater program here. If I can be a help to continue to be a voice for ASC, I will as long as I can. I’m just super excited to be here every day. I wake up in the morning and I’m like, ‘Time to do what I really want to do!’”
Those interested in volunteering to help with the ASC theatre productions may email Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about volunteering and a volunteer application are available at http://asc701.org/volunteer.