On a weekday evening the stage at Killeen’s Vive Les Arts Theatre is dedicated to what’s been described as a “hymn to the glories of girlishness.” Principal actors, singers, dancers and crew pursue one goal: the Broadway musical comedy “Legally Blonde.”
The atmosphere at the theater is high-energy, and not a little frenetic. Practically every possible space has been consumed, with dancers taking over the lobby, singers from the ensemble learning their parts in the parlor and principals blocking their scenes onstage.
Director Charlotte O’Brien is commendably calm through the rehearsal. “We had two rounds of auditions,” she said. “About 80 actors showed up and we were able to choose a good cast.”
With 30 actors, an onstage golf cart and a live dog to wrangle, O’Brien has her work cut out for her. “We’re following pretty close to the script and we’ve got a lot of (theater) veterans, which helps,” she said as lights are tested and adjusted for the scene she’s about to work on: the Act 1 musical number “Blood In The Water.”
The show’s story is based on Amanda Brown’s book “Legally Blonde,” from which also sprang the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon. It’s the tale of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard in order to win back Warner Huntington III, her ex-boyfriend. After discovering that her mastery of the law can help others, Elle’s courtroom skills cause the acquittal of exercise maven Brooke Wyndham, charged with murder.
The night’s read-through involves Elle’s confrontation with Professor Callahan, which will lead to the under-prepared Elle being kicked out of class. O’Brien leads Dan Becker (Callahan) through the blocking and coaxes a more urgent and believable interpretation from him.
“How did that feel?” she asks when he recites his lines the second time. “Much better,” Becker affirms with a surprised smile.
From Waller, O’Brien was recruited by Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis. She graduated with a double major in theater performance and arts administration. Directing “Legally Blonde” will be the second Vive Les Arts show for O’Brien: she also helmed “Around The World in 80 Days” in March.
Musical director Jim Wrex is in charge of what he describes as a “full pit orchestra.” The official licensed version of the score reveals lots of keyboards (three) and, besides bass and guitar, only one string player: a lone violin.
Two woodwinds, two trumpets, a trombone and percussion round out the instruments, and it isn’t yet clear what exactly will be in the Vive Les Arts pit on opening night.
Choreographer Courtney Strause gets rave reviews from her dancers.
“This is way better than shows I did at West Texas A&M,” said Jasmine Suino, 19. The tall brunette is from Killeen and studies musical theater at Temple College.
“We have a very dedicated cast,” she said, and her fellow dancers nod in agreement.
Kamari Esquerra, 14, attends Ellison High School and Katie Morrisey, 17, is a student at Providence Preparatory School. Like Suino, both have had years of dance lessons. The lobby vibrates to the musical tracks that boom from a jambox as the three dancers concentrate on perfecting their steps, leaps and jumps.
Back in the parlor, vocal coach Phillip Diaz says farewell to his chorus singers.
The girls file through the french doors laughing and singing to each other. Diaz looks rather tired but when asked about the music breaks into a grin. “This is gonna be a great show,” he said.