Serving justice with song and style

Washington and Lee theater department holds auditions for upcoming production of Legally Blonde

Laura Bell Bundy, the star of Broadway’s Legally Blonde, who will hold a master class for the cast in January. 
Photo courtesy of the Washington and Lee website.

Laura Bell Bundy, the star of Broadway’s Legally Blonde, who will hold a master class for the cast in January. Photo courtesy of the Washington and Lee website.

Alexandra Cline

Fashion. Law. Singing. Pink.

In W&L’s upcoming production of Legally Blonde, those four aspects combine to produce a high-energy musical filled with dancing, laughter, and, of course, a healthy dose of blonde hair.

The show follows sorority president Elle Woods, a fashionable college senior who enrolls at Harvard Law School after her boyfriend Warner Huntington III ends the relationship due to her lack of seriousness.  While there, she discovers her unexpected talent for defending others, causing her to realize that law school has more to offer than Huntington.

The auditions for the W&L production, which took place on Oct. 28 and 29, included a 16-bar pop song, a group dance audition and a cold reading.

“We really want to see lots of energy,” Rob Mish, the director of the production, said. “If the [student] can’t project that to us, it’ll be really hard to engage with the audience.”

Associate Professor of Dance and Legally Blonde choreographer Jenefer Davies echoed that sentiment. She wanted students to work together and learn from the process of creating art through movement.

“Part of what makes the Bentley musical so exciting is that it’s a full collaboration between dance, theatre and music,” Davies said. “All of the faculty and guest artists involved in the musical are creating a vision…for the Lenfest stage.”

In terms of choreography, Davies aims to incorporate several different styles of dance to capture the complexity of the show’s musical numbers.

“The style is…eclectic,” she said. “For the most part it’s Broadway theatre dance but also has scenes with hip hop, cheerleading and even Irish step dance components. Our cast will be well versed in many styles of dance by the time the musical opens.”

These performers, however, need not be fine arts majors or bear significant previous experience, a distinguishing feature of a production at a liberal arts university.

“Here we have pre-med majors in lead roles,” Mish said. “There’s no preference given to anyone in particular. Of course, everyone needs to be on the same level, but being a small school, there’s no way to cast every show with only theater majors and minors.”

The variety and amount of students cast will become increasingly significant this year and in the future, as four productions will now occur during the school year as opposed to the customary two.

“This year, our Desdemona [production] has already happened, and even though it’s not considered a major production like [Legally Blonde], it was fully produced,” Mish said. “The expansion to four productions will be a major improvement and we’ll continue it every year.”

With the Legally Blonde production in particular, Mish chose the musical in part due to the large number of female roles available, which is atypical of Broadway productions.

“It really is about women, and that’s not usually the case,” he said. “We’re looking for a minimum of eight men and twelve women for the show.”

The combination of such performers will also determine how Mish guides the production, as the actors’ chemistry largely defines the success of the show.

“If you cast right, 80 percent of the job is already done for you,” he said. “If you get the right group of people, you just let them go and tweak them.”

For some of these performers, theater has served as a central component in their W&L careers thus far, with the upcoming production marking one of several shows in which they have participated.

“If cast in Legally Blonde, this will be my fourth show at W&L,” Jake Burnett, ’17, said. “I auditioned because I just really enjoy performing and hanging out with other people that enjoy performing. It’s always a fun experience to rehearse a show and it’s always so rewarding when you get to opening night and you know you’ve created something great.”

Though students like Burnett have substantial theater experience, others are auditioning for a W&L production for the first time.

“I’ve grown up doing musical theatre within my school and community, [but] The Bentley Musical is one of the reasons I actually applied to W&L,” Hannah Dewing, ’19, said. “I am thrilled that there is the opportunity to continue my involvement in college.”

Legally Blonde will run March 10-14 in Keller Theatre.