Prior to leaving for China last Spring, I was offered the incredible opportunity to choreograph Legally Blonde: The Musical in The Ohio State University Department of Theatre. Since my freshman year, I have been attempting to work my way into the Theatre Department in any way. With Musical Theatre being a large part of my training – especially at Magnificat – it only seemed fitting that I would continue to pursue this passion of mine as I continue with my degree. However, between rehearsals and classes, it started to feel as though I would never be able to combine the two worlds in a way that I would have enjoyed…until now.
Preparation started in the Summer, FaceTiming the wonderful Director of this project, Mandy Fox, as well as the other choreographer I would be working with, Shellee Younkin. As I was in China, these FaceTime meetings were crucial. Within the first few meetings, we discussed general concepts, expectations, and divided the numbers up so that Shellee and I could get started on choreography. With each number we were assigned, it was our duty to head the choreography for that particular piece and then work together to clean and make adjustments as needed to ensure a cohesive final product. I had the blessing of choreographing the following:
“What You Want” – Personal Essay
“Bend and Snap”
“Legally Blonde Remix” – co-choreographed the beginning portion and choreographed the Irish section
While in China, I spent my days off thinking of clever ideas and concepts for each of these songs and generating small bits of movement that could be used once rehearsals began. This preparation was incredibly valuable as Auditions were held within the first week of Fall Semester.
What a talented cast! Students of all grades and majors attended the audition and I was blown away when I arrived at Callbacks and taught a small portion of choreography for the Dance Call. I have always known Ohio State to be a fabulous school and community, but goodness gracious there are some marvelous humans with large passions and talent to share – and now was my time to meet them! The final cast consisted of about 30 students, all with admirable motivations and genuine love for the upcoming project. We dove into rehearsals and spent about 3 months choreographing, blocking, and rehearsing for the show to be held November 8th – 19th at The Drake Center for the Performing Arts, Thurber Theatre.
Making my musical theatre choreographic debut, I approached each rehearsal with excitement, eager to see what I would learn and discover within each new eight count taught. I challenged myself to arrive with general concepts and movement phrases, and then use these as a tool kit to choreograph on-the-spot in ways that would suit the dancers the best and help them to feel comfortable and confident onstage. If Legally Blonde is about finding yourself and learning to accept and find strength in who you are, it would only make sense for me to make it my goal to guide students toward this empowered state of mind.
With each number, I worked to bridge the gap between Musical Theatre and the MTV energy that comes with this show. I can honestly say that every single rehearsal was a joy and the work ethic of the cast was so incredible that I would leave late nights feeling oh so inspired. With choreography rehearsals at 3 – 5 times a week, the students were learning so much and it was easy for me to feel a bit overwhelmed, so I can only begin to imagine the tornado that they were in the middle of. However, every second was absolutely worth it as we headed into Opening Night and the world of Elle Woods was brought to life.
Watching my choreography on that stage was one of the most amazing feelings. After we left the rehearsal space and headed into tech week, I had separated myself from my work – giving it to the cast and guiding them through the process. My heart immediately filled with pure joy and gratitude as the first chord was played in “Omigod You Guys” and the Delta Nu’s were introduced to the audience: full of energy, confidence, excitement, and more talent than I could have ever hoped to work with. Words cannot begin to express the genuine gratitude I feel for my time spent on this project or the desire to work more in this world and pursue new avenues in Theatre. One thing is for sure: the group of humans, artists, and souls that I had the pleasure of working with can never be topped and I could not imagine a better show or location to make my Musical Theatre choreographic debut. Thankful would be an understatement.
To read a review of the show, please visit the following page: Columbus Dispatch