Two blondes, two dogs are ‘Legally’ fun
Jennifer Johnson and Addison Stafford (center) both play Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde, The Musical."
‘Legally Blonde, The Musical’
Stage Door Fine Arts, Community House, 415 W. 8th St., Hinsdale
7 p.m. June 14, 15, 16; 2 p.m. June 16; 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. June 17
(630) 323-7500, www.stagedoorfinearts.com
Updated: June 13, 2012 3:57PM
Addison Stafford’s Elle Woods is a little bubblier and more sorority girl-like than Jennifer Johnson’s Elle Woods, the main character in “Legally Blonde, The Musical.”
But, Johnson’s Elle Woods nails the serious side of the character, making her admission to Harvard Law School more believable.
Either way, says director Don Smith, you’re getting the Elle Woods experience in the Stage Door Fine Arts production of “Legally Blonde, The Musical,” about the rich, L.A. Delta Nu sorority sister who chases her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in order to win him back. She encounters several challenges when her Valley Girl sensibilities clash with Ivy League snootiness.
The musical is being staged between June 14 and 17 at The Community House in Hinsdale.
Since Stage Door Fine Arts is a youth and young adult theater company that strives to give every actor professional experience, roles are often double cast.
Both Stafford, 16, of Hinsdale, and Johnson, 17, of Clarendon Hills, said they have characteristics in common with Elle Woods, so developing the character isn’t difficult.
“We’re both kind of energetic and things like that,” said Stafford, who has seen the movie, which the musical is based on, several times. “I love her. I love her spunk, I love her determination and her energy and her kindness and her honesty and her integrity.”
Johnson, who has wanted to be in a production of “Legally Blonde” since seeing the musical on Broadway four years ago, finds Elle Woods’ positive attitude inspiring.
“I’m really motivated and so is she, throughout the musical,” Johnson said. “So I can relate to how she gets that motivation and uses it.”
However, there are challenges.
Besides having to dye her hair a lighter shade of blonde (Stafford’s hair is dirty-blonde), Stafford said there’s a lot of depth to Elle that she has to keep up with.
“You have to show her changing throughout the show,” she said. “She goes from being this girl who everyone thinks is ditzy because she’s from Malibu, who grows into being this great and powerful woman.”
Johnson said it’s hard to keep up Elle’s energy throughout the show.
Both Stafford and Johnson bring out certain sides of Elle, and they coach each other on the traits they need work on. For example, Stafford might help Johnson be bubblier, while Johnson might help Stafford embrace Elle’s serious side.
“They both do a great job of both,” Smith, of Chicago, said. “But I would say, in general, Addie really comes across having that sorority girl kind of feel of Elle from L.A. and Jennifer has a lot more of the Harvard side. It’s kind of neat to see them work to bring out the opposite in the character.”
A couple of actors from the Broadway show, who are in the Stage Door Fine Arts production too, are also keeping the girls on their toes.
They are Frankie, the chihuahua who plays Bruiser, Elle’s dog, and Chloe, the bulldog who plays Rufus, Elle’s friend Paulette’s dog. Both Frankie and Chloe were shelter dogs who were rescued by trainer William Berloni. Berloni, who was the 2011 recipient of the Tony Award for Excellence in Theater, has been training animals for Broadway productions for years.
“I think it’s awesome because I’ve never been in a musical with live dogs before,” Stafford said. “I think it’s a great thing to learn how to do, and I think it’s a challenge, but it’s an exciting challenge.”
Animals can be unpredictable sometimes, she said, adding, “But we’re lucky enough to have professional dogs from the actual Broadway show.”
Johnson is as excited to be working with Frankie and Chloe as if she were working with the human leads on Broadway.
“I think that it’s really cool that we’re working with the dogs that worked with Laura Bell Bundy (the original Elle in the musical version),” she said. “It’s really professional.”