International award-winning hit
Legally Blonde The Musical
Australian Premiere Season- Sydney Lyric From 21 September
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Winner of 7 major awards including Best New Musical 2011 (Oliver Awards©) This all dancing, romantic comedy is about know who you are and showing what you’ve got!
The all-star Australian cast includes Lucy Durack (Wicked) as Elle Woods, Rob Mills (Wicked, Young Talent Time) as Warner, David Harris (The Boy from OZ, Miss Saigon) as Emmett, Helen Dallimore (The Warf Review) as Paulette, Erika Heynatz (Australia’s Next Top Model) as Brooke Wyndham and Cameron Daddo (Big Riverk, Packed to the Rafters) as Professor Callahan.
Elle Woods can handle anything. So when her boyfriend Warner, dumps her for someone ‘serious’ she decides to follow him to Harvard Law School and win him back. With some help from new-found friends Paulette, Emmett and her Chihuahua Bruiser, she learns that it’s so much better to be smart.
A short time ago we had the pleasure of sitting down with Jerry Mitchell, Choreographer and Director of Legally Blonde The Musical. Jerry was in Sydney to oversee rehearsals and get to know the cast a little better for the Australian season … Read on and Enjoy!!
Welcome to Sydney Jerry, have you been to Australia before?
“I was in Sydney for one day and Melbourne for two weeks quite a few years ago when I did THE FULL MONTY.”
You’ve had quite a long history I believe, choreographing since you were 14? How did you get started?
“Well I was always a dancer as a kid and I grew up in a little town in Michigan. I had a dance teacher who taught me everything and she was the choreographer of the local theatre. I would work with her and I taught at her studio. When I went to college and right through university I taught there and took all sorts of classes, but I had never taken ballet until I got to college – then of course I fell in love with it. I took three classes a day.”
“My first big break really was a couple of years later. I was in New York during my sophomore year and on Spring Break I auditioned for BRIGADOON, when Agnes De Mille (choreographer) was still alive. She was in the audition and she picked me out and gave me the job. I went back to school and said “ I got a Broadway show!”. They sent me to New York and I got my Junior Year doing the show. Prior to that when I was back at school, A CHORUS LINE was coming through and I went down to the theatre at St Louis to audition a got a part in A CHORUS LINE, Michael Bennett (choreographer) picked me for it.
“So I went on tour with them, then I did BRIGADOON and that was in the 80s. Five or six years later Michael Bennett asked me to assist him on SCANDAL and now I was working as an associate choreographer on this new musical. I later became an associate choreographer to Jerome Robbins for JEROME ROBBINS BROADWAY. So as a choreographer that was my education. That five year period of working with Michael Bennett and Jerome Robbins, learning from two of the greatest musical theatre choreographers; well two of the greatest choreographers period!! They taught me the craft of how you use dance to further the story of a character in a musical.”
You couldn’t have had a better education!
“It was unbelievable! It really was. Then I started doing it on my own. I was always doing it on my own but I started doing it professionally on Broadway on my own.”
So what was your first Broadway show on your own?
“My first Broadway show on my own was YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN. It came about because I was doing a production of FOLLIES just outside the city and Michael Mayor saw the production and asked if I would be interested in choreographing CHARLIE BROWN. I said “ yes, of course” and that was my ‘invitation to the party’, as I like to say.
Its true for a choreographer, you struggle and struggle and struggle hoping to get a Broadway show, but really once you get that first offer then you’re in. You’re in the party you know, people know who you are. Then I got asked to do THE FULL MONTY, HAIRSPRAY, ROCKY HORROR, It just kept snowballing from there.”
Have you achieved quite a lot of awards?
“I won a Tony Award for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES which was in 2005, but I’d been nominated about six times before I won. The year I got nominated for LA CAGE I was also nominated against myself for DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. Jules Fischer, who’s a great lighting designer said to me, “you’re never gonna win, you always lose against yourself because they split the vote”. I was like, “No, No!” because LA CAGE was a classic. I mean I had those boys doing crazy choreography. But yeah, It all worked out.”
So you fell into LEGALLY BLONDE I believe?
“I bumped into one of the producers in Time Square and he said “Hey, Ive got a project I’d love to talk to you about directing and choreographing. Are you interested?” and I said “Sure!”. I went to meet him and the 3 other producers in a conference room and they threw me a script that said LEGALLY BLONDE. They said “we want to turn it into a musical, would you be interested?”
So you were in on the ground level?
“There was no script, this was the script of the movie. I said “absolutely”, and they said “why?” I said “because I understand the character”, “she’s larger than life, She’s a heroine you can root for that sings and dances”. You know, when you watch the film, its almost like a musical, she is so much larger than life. It’s easy to write for characters like that and you can see when they can sing and when they can dance. That’s what attracted me to it – it was contemporary, it was fresh, it was young.
Thinking about seeing musicals myself as a kid back at home and how this musical, if it was done well, had the opportunity to really put the ‘hook in the mouth’ for a lot of young people to love the theatre.”
What is your first impression of the cast that you’ve met?
“Well the cast is sensational, all of them! I cast them all on video and film but Lucy Durack we met in person. She auditioned for me in person in London. The show really rests on the shoulders of the girl who is playing the role of Elle. It’s a massive undertaking for anyone. She has to be an incredible singer, dancer and actress but she has to be able to display vulnerability, you have to care for her. Lucy has that on stage and from what I can tell she seems like a really genuine person. Those are qualities that Laura Bell Bundy (Broadway, NY)) and Sheridan Smith(West End, London) both had. They both were nominated for many awards. I expect the same things for Lucy – I think she’s that good!!”
And the rest of the cast?
“They all have their moments to shine in the show and it’s because of their relationship with Elle, how Elle changes them. The only one who doesn’t change in the entire show is Warner, he becomes a model by the end of the show. He’s got to be beautiful, he’s got to sing brilliantly and he does both of those things, it’s a great role! It’s a great part to play.”
In terms of creating your choreography for LEGALLY BLONDE, did you get your stimulus from the character only?
“I got inspiration from the Hollaback girl film. When they had written the opening to the Second Act, the original song was called “Work it for me” for Brooke Windom. I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that she is an exercise guru, to show the DVD and how she made her money. So they changed the song from “Work it for me” to “Whip it for me”. She needed a prop, all these people on the infomercials are selling their thigh blasters or their pilates mats and I said “what’s her thing?”, “what about a jumprope?” The opening to the Second Act starts with her like we are watching the video and then we meet her in jail and she is teaching the routine to all the inmates. So they are all jump-roping in orange jumpsuits. I thought this would be brilliant and so much fun to do. So we start rehearsal everyday for one hour we jump rope. Everybody has to for one hour.”
It’s hard, you have to train. You have to sing and jump rope and it takes about three weeks for them to get the stamina in order to do it.
Wow, I can’t imagine trying to sing and jump rope at the same time!
“I could not jump rope when I started. I had no idea how to jump rope, I had to get my brother who is an athletic director to teach me. It took him about an hour and a half just to teach me the rhythm of jumping the rope. I said “OK, this is promising”, so I started working on it. I cast five dancers in my pre-production and two of them were actually jump-rope competitors when they were young. They knew a little bit about it so we started developing it and that’s how it all came about.”
What sort of input do you have on the costuming and the rest of the production?
“Everything! It is one of the great things about being the director/choreographer. The job of doing the musical is such a collaborative art form. If you are going to have a director and choreographer, it needs to be seamless work. So if you are both it’s going to be seamless because its coming from one place.
“The visual ideas are created by the people you surround yourself with and how much you trust them to take the idea and make it even better.
“As a team we collaborate very well together, its almost an unspoken language. Greg Bonds, David Rockwell and Kenny Posner all come back to me with all these beautiful ideas. That’s really what it’s about for me. Being the director/choreographer makes it easy because I just, I don’t have to talk to the choreographer.”
What’s coming up next for you?
“KINKY BOOTS! Its really the big show that comes to Broadway in the Spring of 2013. In between that I’m doing this and I’m starting a LEGALLY BLONDE in Vienna in German and HAIRSPRAY is going back on the road in the UK starting in January. Then I am developing a new musical called THE HONEYMOONERS based on the TV series. I will be doing that in Australia in December. I also have my burlesque show, PEEP SHOW in Las Vegas.”
LEGALLY BLONDE starts very soon – if you haven’t already bought your tickets, be quick!
Venue: Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star
From: 21 September, 2012
Opening Night: Thursday 4 October
Performance Times: Tues 7pm, Wed–Sat 8pm, Matinees Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm
Price: $75.90 – $139.90
Bookings: 1300 795 267 or ticketmaster.com.au
Groups of 12 or more (02) 8240 2290