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IC Backstage: Behind the Scenes with "Legally Blonde"

Written by Kristin Leffler
1/25/2013

"Legally Blonde" Cast

After senior musical theatre major Joseph DePietro auditioned for Ithaca College’s production of Legally Blonde, he realized just how badly he wanted to land the part of Harvard law teaching assistant, Emmett Forrest.

“I very clearly remember telling my mom, 'Mom… I really want this one,'” he says.

DePietro, like every other BFA musical theatre or acting major at IC, was required to audition for the Ithaca Main Stage Theater production, but he was especially excited for this show.

“The music is fantastic, and it is not like many shows that come through Dillingham,” he says. “It’s an amazing story that is much deeper than many may think before seeing it.”

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The musical production of Legally Blonde is an adaptation of the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon. The play tells the story of Elle Woods, an energetic Southern California sorority girl who is in love with her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III. Warner unexpectedly dumps her for not being “serious” enough. Heartbroken and determined to win him back, Elle follows him to Harvard Law School, befriends a manicurist and learns a lot about herself in the process.

With the movie being such an accessible research tool, developing original characters often proved challenging for performers.

“It was essential to not replicate these actors’ choices but make these characters our own and really take ownership of them,” DePietro says. “The best part of the process has been making new discoveries about the character and the show, and really understanding how prevalent this show is to our audiences, especially in a college setting.”

Senior musical theatre majors Chloe Tiso and Megan Ort were both cast as the lead, Elle Woods. They alternated performances throughout the week.

“The most challenging part of the role is the sheer physical stamina it takes,” Tiso says. “It’s pretty demanding vocally, physically and mentally and I’m constantly reminding myself to breathe and have fun so that I don’t get overwhelmed.”

It was easy to have fun with a cast and crew of close friends. Six of the students involved in the play live together.

“We sometimes joke that we can put on a mini-version of the show in our living room,” DePietro says.

The real production, however, was anything but small. With moving sets, trained dogs and original choreography, the process wasn’t without its challenges.

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“Figuring out the logistics of the many scene changes and costume changes [was challenging]. We began rehearsals before the guest choreographer came on board, so we had some catching up to do, which we did,” says Greg Bostwick, director of Legally Blonde and Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts. “Our productions are an extension of our classroom teaching, so it is a great laboratory for students to put what they have learned to the test.”

One of the greatest lessons the actors learned throughout the process came from the show’s message, hidden under all the pink and glitz.

“I really hope that the audience takes away that anything is possible if one truly sets his or her mind to something,” DePietro says. “Even in the face of adversity and despite nearly impossible odds, a truly determined person can make almost anything happen.”



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