Musical to premiere at the University

Seth Weber and Seth Weber

The musical “Legally Blonde,” adapted from the film, will premiere April 24.

Michael Ellison, associate professor in the theatre and film department, is directing the production and likes it because of its energy.

“The show is high energy and a lot of fun,” he said.

Ellison said the production features a variety of musical numbers. He said one of the most important things when directing a musical is making sure the dances and songs fit together to further the story.

Some dance numbers will be very challenging, Ellison said, such as a song called “Whipped Into Shape,” which is designed to be like a music video.

“It’s like people are watching a music video that’s selling her exercise program,” he said. “It’s incredibly aerobic and the actors are singing through it, so it’s a very challenging number.”

To create the sets, the department created a lot of new parts, but took a lot from older sets, said Daniel Mangan, theater design technician.

When building sets, Mangan said it’s not about realism, but creating a feeling of a scene.

“We’re not trying to create 100 percent realism,” he said. “So when we need the Harvard classroom, we’re not building a complete classroom, we’re creating fragments.”

He said creating the sets are a lot like building a house, except lighter, weaker materials are used and are built for temporary use.

While setting the stage is important, so is creating a meaningful story, Ellison said. As director, he wanted to have characters the audience would relate to and care about.

“It can be easy to do this show and trust that if you just have high energy and lots of enthusiasm and you sing and dance, well, what more can you want? I want a lot more. I want to care about these people and invest in their journey,” Ellison said.

One of the reasons the theatre department chose to do “Legally Blonde” was because it had a lot of strong women’s roles, and the department has a lot of strong female singers, Ellison said.

He said the name recognition of the show is also important, and will draw audiences in.

In addition to the challenging nature of the show, Ellison said he also had to face something he’d never done before: canine actors.

“In all of my years of directing I’ve never ever had doggy auditions,” he said.

Eight dogs were auditioned, but only two were cast as Bruiser and Rufus.

Nugget, a Yorkshire Terrier owned by graduate student Erica Pax, is playing as Bruiser in the musical.

Pax said she’s trained Nugget things such as speaking and running through obstacle courses, but has never had her be in a play.

She was worried Nugget would have a hard time because she was out of practice, but did well at the auditions.

“I thought she was going to be rusty, but she saw everyone there and turned on the charm,” Pax said.

Junior Devon Holbrook’s dog, Kit, a blue merle Pomeranian, will be playing Rufus.

Holbrook found out about the auditions through Facebook, and said Kit has been doing well at rehearsals.

“She’s definitely caught on really fast,” she said. “They put her through puppy boot camp.”

Because of the presence of dogs in the production, there will be a table during the show accepting donations for Cutie’s Fund, a charity for neglected and abused animals.

“Because they’re dogs in the show, it’s a perfect tie in to help raise that awareness,” Ellison said.

Cutie was an abused Chihuahua, which the fund was initially created for, Ellison said.

After Cutie got better, the fund was used for other animals in distress.

Cutie may make an appearance at the production, giving out “pawtographs.”