Darryl Heater’s debut as the director of a musical must be a bit daunting considering the technical challenges of Legally Blonde, Theatre Sarnia’s season opener.
The subject matter is light and humorous but the choreography, vocals and sets are anything but. In fact Heater, who has been on stage for a couple dozen musicals, says Legally Blonde has some of the most intricate and complex singing and dance numbers he’s ever seen.
“But I knew it would be a lot of work,” said the 27-year-old. In the weeks leading to opening night, directing Legally Blonde has consumed most his time outside working as a software developer, he said.
“I’ve happily spent hours and hours on top of rehearsal to make sure it’s the calibre we want. And I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by some really strong performers and a very experienced group at Theatre Sarnia.”
Jackie Burns is choreographer and Adam Forristal is musical director.
“They are all working so hard,” said Heater. “Anyone who comes to see the show will be very impressed with the level of local talent in Sarnia.”
Legally Blonde The Musical is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and a 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon. The stage production and score came later, perhaps explaining why it’s such a complex show. Recreating the locations of a movie is never simple.
“It is a very ambitious show and a lot of the challenge is in the number of locations – a sorority, Harvard, a courtroom, jail,” said Heater. “All of those places must be accommodated with sets, props and costumes, and they all look fantastic.”
The show opened on Broadway in 2007 and earned a reputation as a high energy, feel-good production that requires a ton of pink paint, numerous set changes and plenty of skipping and cheerleading.
“There are a few serious moments but mostly it’s fun-filled start to finish,” said Heater.
His favourite number is called “Whipped into Shape” and opens Act II.
“It’s a catchy song and the dance involves skipping rope most of the time,” Heater explained. “It looks fun and it is fun but it’s also the most physically demanding dance in the show. Everyone on stage is getting a full cardio workout.”
Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, who leaves her sorority house to go to Harvard in pursuit of love. The show is a journey of self-discovery as she realizes she’s not defined by her looks and the colour of her hair.
The production has seven lead parts, another 20 or so in the chorus and 30 others working behind the scenes.
Two dogs also join the show, presenting yet another unusual challenge for Heater.
But dog owner and handler Stephanie Lorette has trained her pups well, he said.
“The dogs add a little bit of unpredictability. We need to have back up plans in case something we expect to happen, doesn’t happen.”
Legally Blonde’s lead actors include Tayler Hartwick as Elle Woods, Brent Wilkinson as Emmett Forrest, Cian Poore as Warner Huntington III, Claire Ross as Vivienne Kensington, Cassandra Smith as Paulette Bonafonte, Michelle Soulard as Brooke Wyndham, and John Reid as Professor Callahan.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Theatre Sarnia’s season opener Legally Blonde The Musical.
WHERE: Imperial Theatre
WHEN: Sept. 21 -22; Sept. 26-29 at 7:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. matinee on Sept. 23.
TICKETS: Imperial’s box office or online at www.imperialtheatre.net.
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