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Susan Dudke (right) plays Elle in Legally Blonde: The Musical. Courtesy photo.




See Legally Blonde: The Musical

Where: Janice B. Streeter Theater, 14 Court St., Nashua
When: Friday, July 18, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 19, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, July 20, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $12-$15
Contact: actorsingers.org, 889-9691




High-energy Elle
Teen Actorsingers present Legally Blonde: The Musical

07/10/14
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 What do you do when your theater group is in overflow with female actors and your choreographer is an ex-Patriots cheerleader?

You challenge them to Legally Blonde: The Musical, a girl-heavy play with difficult music, difficult choreography and more heart than Reese Witherspoon’s ditzy 2001 comedy. The Nashua Teen Actorsingers present the pink production at the Janice B. Streeter Theater stage for the first time Friday, July 18, at 8 p.m.
“It’s a very female-heavy show, which was more of a priority after last year,” said Director Joe Juknievich in a short interview just before a recent rehearsal. “There’s a lot of female talent in this organization, especially at the teen level, and a priority for all directors was to showcase that talent even more.”
Legally Blonde: The Musical tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls in and studies at Harvard Law School. The plan is to prove she’s smart enough for her ex-boyfriend, Warner, who dumped her for a more serious academic, a boring, snobby aristocrat named Vivienne. But Elle discovers she kind of likes law school; she revels in the idea that she might be something other than a Victoria’s Secret model.
The lead is played by Susan Dudka, a Nashua native and University of New Hampshire sophomore. The cast had recently taken press photos, and Dudka joked during that interview that getting into character is certainly easier when you look down and realize you’re wearing nothing but pink. (One onlooker joked she looked like a walking ad for bubble gum.) 
But this version has more serious moments. She’d been working quite a bit with Juknievich in developing that other side of Elle.
“The show is bubbly and fun, but there’s also a seriousness in it,” Juknievich said. “I want there to be a transformation, for her to come into her own.”
It’s a difficult show to pull off. True, it’s perhaps not as politically charged as last year’s Urinetown, which was fused with issues of protest and corruption, but Legally Blonde is far more technically exhausting, not just because of the harmonies, high notes and amount of music to learn, but also because, thanks to choreographer Brittney-Lynne Stanley, most scenes contain 5- to 10-minute-long dance numbers. 
But this crop can handle it. More than 60 teens auditioned this spring, nearly 30 more than in 2013. Most of the actors knew it would be difficult going in; producer Catherine Andruskevich said many returned this year because they so enjoyed working with the directing team, college students and grads Juknievich, Stanley and Eric Berthiaume (musical director) the year before. 
“I think they bring a lot of energy,” Dudka said. “I feel a little bit more on the same plane. … You feel not as afraid to suggest things.”
Much of the energy comes from Stanley, a 23-year-old recent college grad and Patriots cheerleader retiree. (The Pats only allow the dancers to stay for three years, max. Stanley was captain and choreographer for some of that time.) A Nashua native, Stanley grew up performing with the Actorsingers, and she studied dance and theater management at school. 
She currently works full-time as an HR assistant, and while she says she’d jump at the chance to perform, for now, this choreography position acts as her creative outlet. She holds nothing back, particularly since this show gives her so much creative license. You may see moves straight from Gillette Stadium. 
“Cheerleading is more showy, with lots of arms and more flashy movements. … Which is perfect for theater,” Stanley said. “This is my third year choreographing with the Teen Actorsingers. The first summer I was here, we performed Grease. Last year was Urinetown, which was very depressing. But in Legally Blonde, they’re jump roping, hip-hop dancing, Irish step dancing — there are a huge variety of dances, and it really let me explore the kids’ boundaries.”
The kids have noticed. Young actress Emma Benson, who plays Serena, says the most important attribute a cast member needs for Legally Blonde is endurance. 
She, in addition to Carli Hamilton (who plays Vivienne Kensington, Elle’s arch nemesis) have both performed the hit musical before — it’s been extremely popular among community theaters, Juknievich​ said, because the rights only recently became available to them — but never like this.
“Our choreographer knows this show will be better when it’s full of dance, so every number has a huge dance portion, because, well, why not? She casted people who could handle it,” Benson said. “Every number is huge, fast, pop, fun, nonstop, and everyone’s doing it in heels! It’s literally all about stamina. The dance moves are learnable for anyone, but you need water, and you need big breaths of air to get through it.” 
 
As seen in the July 10, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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