‘Legally Blonde’ part of Croswell’s ‘Great Big Night’Written by Renee Lapham Collins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Legally Blonde,” the musical version of the hit movie, opens June 15 at the Croswell Opera House.
The show, which charts the journey of fashion merchandising major Elle Woods from sorority sister to successful law school student, is a perfect pick for a fun Croswell event, according to executive director Jere Righter.
“Most people know this as a movie with Reese Witherspoon, but the story line translates so well to music and the characters are larger than life,” Righter said. “The day the rights became available for community theater I secured them for this spot.”
The “spot” Righter refers to is part of the Croswell’s annual “Great Big Night” fund-raiser.
“We have an opening night pre-party with dinner catered by the Hathaway House, a full bar, a small live auction and then after the show, there is a dance party out in the street in front of the Croswell.”
Patrons may purchase tickets for all three events for $100. Pre-party tickets are $50 while admission to the show is $28 and the post-party, $25. Tickets are available by calling (517) 264-7469 or by logging on to croswell.org.
“We are creating some faux magazine covers to decorate the library for the pre-party,” she said. “It’s clever and cute. The pre-party is a great way to support the Croswell and we’ll also be presenting the Lenawee Arts award.”
Righter is thrilled with the upcoming show.
“The play centers around Elle Woods, who should be someone you don’t like,” Righter said. “She’s so into fashion, pink is her signature color, yet she’s funny, smart, moral and wants to do the right thing.”
Marlena Hilderley of Tecumseh is cast as Elle. A student at the University of Michigan where she is studying vocal performance and music education, Hilderley has a long list of Croswell credits, including “High School Musical 2,” “Fame,” “A Chorus Line” and “Hairspray.”
“I really like the play,” Hilderley said. “I liked the movie and I started listening to the soundtrack when I found out the Croswell was doing it. I found I really liked the soundtrack — Elle is the kind of character I like to play, a challenging role. She’s perceived as superficial but on the inside, she’s not.”
Hilderley said one difficulty in playing the role of Elle is finding a balance between being likeable and overly obnoxious.
“She sees that she actually belongs (at Harvard) and that she’s meant to be there after all.”
Jen Letherer, a theater and film professor at Spring Arbor University, is directing “Legally Blonde.”
“One of the things that makes the character dynamic is that she’s fun, she doesn’t dwell on things that aren’t important throughout the entire play.”
Letherer said it is important to understand the nature of the story and not feel compelled to depend on gimmicks.
“Any moment in a successful play comes from performers and the strength of the production,” she said. “So here we look at how we can make what is natural work, look at what is the real intention of the play and how we can make it work. In other words, not looking for the easy laugh but for what a character would really do.”
Letherer praised her cast and the talent they will bring to the final production.
“We have 20 cast members but they are all utility players, playing a lot of different things, and they understand the nature of the space, the community and the time,” she said. “We have a strong choreographer in Deb Calabrese and a great musical director in Dave Rains. Those are major essentials for me and it contributes to the fun (of staging the musical).”
Letherer said the “rehearsals are a joy.
“This is a delightful group of performers who understand how to make the play wonderful for them and for the audience.”
Selecting the right show for the fund-raiser is a challenge.
“For all our musicals, which run from May to December, we are looking for shows that have broad appeal but also we have to be confident we can cast a show,” Righter said. “For June, for our ‘Great Big Night,’ we wanted something uplifting and fun and in this show, we have it. We have a show that has a message of loyalty, integrity and intelligence winning out but it’s told in a clever and fun way so it’s not heavy-handed.”
Besides Hilderley, the cast includes David Blackburn of New Boston as Warner, Darin DeWeese of Ann Arbor as Emmett, Natasha Ricketts of Adrian as Paulette, Mark Hyre of Tecumseh as Professor Callahan, Callie Cothern of Tecumseh as Vivienne, Ashley Greer of Bedford as Margo, Abby Dotz of Saline as Pilar, Katie Ialacci of Temperance as Serena, Hallie Toland of Holland, Ohio, as Brooke and Emily Wyse of Wauseon as Enid. The ensemble cast features Ryan Chang of Onsted, Dan Evans of Adrian, Mia Gladieux of Perrysburg, Kyle Krichbaum of Adrian, Jocelyn Near of Sand Creek, Austin Olano of Onsted, Alissa Reeder of Tecumseh, Austin Terris of Saline and Brandon Wright of Toledo.
“There is something for everyone in this show,” Letherer said. “It has had a wonderful life with MTV and that generation, there are lots of really fun parts, a lot of humor and a lot of heart.”