Interviews By Amanda McShane
The Rome School of Music, Drama and Art is putting on the production, Legally Blonde the Musical this weekend. I had the opportunity to interview the Catholic University students who play the main characters in the show. Anna Phillips-Brown, Ashton Schaffer and Becca Malachowski explained the rewards and challenges they each had when playing their roles. Read the Q and A below to learn about the people behind your favorite characters, Elle, Emmett, and Paulette!
Anna Phillips-Brown (Paulette) | Senior | Musical Theater Major
Q: What did you enjoy most about being part of Legally Blonde?
A: One of the best parts of being in Legally Blonde is definitely getting to work with the cast. Some of the people in it have been some of my closest friends for a long time, and some people I’ve only started to get to know through this process, and they all make it such a fun and rewarding project.
Q: What did you enjoy most about playing Paulette?
A: I absolutely adore playing Paulette for a multitude of reasons, it’s so hard to pick my favorite! Of course I love her music, but her boldness and strength is so inspiring to me, it feels like a great privilege to step into her shoes where she does not care what anyone thinks of her and has this incredible ability to jump into life head first. One of her signature features, however, is that she is the ultimate dog mom, which resonates with me pretty deeply!
Q: What were the challenges about playing Paulette?
A: Something I found to be a challenge with Paulette was actually my own inhibitions and insecurities. I found myself being very self conscious, initially, about taking on Paulette’s unapologetic, and admittedly dorky, mannerisms. In addition to that, Paulette also spends a large portion of the show fighting the residual effects of a past abusive relationship, which motivates her self worth and body issues, all of which I have dealt with in my own life.
Q: What was the audition process like for you all?
A: We all auditioned for the show within the first three days of being back at school, which for most people would be very stressful. Because we had learned what the show would be at the end of last Spring semester, however, we were given the opportunity to prepare on our own over the summer, which I was lucky enough to be able to do with my voice teacher when I wasn’t in rehearsals for another show, taking summer classes, or working at my other job. Once we got into auditions everyone was really prepared and excited, so the week long process of dance auditions, vocal auditions, and respective callbacks was really fun but exhausting, and the competition was pretty stiff.
Q: What did you learn the most about being part of Legally Blonde?
A: This show really has been a whirlwind of a learning process for me, as I do several things in this production that even a few months ago I would have never even thought I could do. It has really pushed me in terms of vocal ability, acting and most of all dance. I won’t give it a way, but there is a whole dance break in the show very specific to my character that I was terrified of and making jokes about, like saying I would just tell the audience what I was supposed to be doing instead of dancing, right up until the days we were finalizing it. I’m really grateful to the production itself and everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to push myself in these ways, and giving me new skills that I can carry on with me into future productions when I graduate in May.
Ashton Schaffer (Emmett) | Senior | Musical Theater Major
Q: What have you enjoyed most about playing Emmett?
A: Emmett has gone through a lot of adversity to get to where he is now. But through it all he kept high spirits and was fully committed to making a better life for himself and his family. That’s something that I like about Emmett, he doesn’t let his past dictate his future. In that way I can relate to Emmett and have found a lot of truth in his character. I enjoy bringing Emmett to life because it’s a character that I know a lot of people can relate to and will be able to find little pieces of themselves in Emmett’s determination, focus and heart.
Q: How did you know that you wanted to play Emmett?
A: I didn’t really have a specific role in mind when walking into the auditions. In all honesty, I had never seen Legally Blonde and didn’t know very much about the show before going into auditions. However, as I went through the callback process I found a lot of similarities between myself and Emmett and I started to lean more towards that role. I’m still very honored that our director, Jay Brock, trusted me with this character.
Q: What was the audition process like for you?
A: The audition process went very well! We started with dance auditions, which is not my strongest area and then did singing auditions. I was then lucky enough to get a callback for the characters: Padamadan, Callahan and Emmett. It’s always very hard to read the production team during the audition and callback process so I really had no idea what was going to happen.
Q: What were the challenges of playing Emmett?
A: One of the biggest, and yet most fun, things about playing Emmett is the department store scene. There is a moment in the show when Elle takes Emmett shopping for a new outfit. During this scene I have about 30 seconds to change (onstage) from one costume to another. It took a lot of coordination and a lot of hands to help make it happen. Although 30 seconds is nothing compared to the nine second costume change that Elle Woods (Rebecca Malachowski) does in the show! Another challenge with playing Emmett is making sure that I depict his character honestly. Emmett has worked hard and overcome a lot to get to where he is. I think that his character only works if the audience truly believes his back story. So as an actor I have to channel the adversity in my own personal life and use that to help motivate how Emmett is feeling and acts in the show.
Q: What did you enjoy most about Legally Blonde?
A: Having worked on the show now I can say that I have a better understanding of why this musical is so popular – It’s just plain fun! Every time I’m onstage I’m having fun. It’s one of those shows that just makes you laugh. The music is catchy, the story is cute, and all of the actors onstage are giving it their all to make this a fun show for our audience! We have all (cast, crew, orchestra, production team) poured our hearts into this show and I think it really shows. If you’re not laughing, smiling or dancing along with us by the end of the show then we’ve done our jobs wrong.
Q: What has it been like for you, the cast and crew to be part of Legally Blonde?
A: I’ve had a fantastic experience working on Legally Blonde. I’ve gotten to work with so many outstanding designers and directors and get to perform with an extremely talented cast, most of whom I’ve developed better friendships with because of the show. Sure the process had its ups and downs, but that’s what being part of a team entails – working together to reach a common goal. I have mad respect for every single person working on the show, onstage and off and have learned a great deal about myself and what it takes to put on a full scale musical such as Legally Blonde!
Rebecca Malachowski (Elle Woods)| Junior | Musical Theater and Secondary Education Minor
- How has playing Elle Woods impacted you?
Elle Woods was a challenge to take on. The role itself is considered to be one of the hardest female roles in musical theatre, as Elle is in every scene and song, has to dance just as well as her acting and singing, is one of the most vocally challenging roles in modern musical theatre, and her quick changes are insanely short. I’ve had many fears to conquer during this process, and really be confident in what I am doing. There is no room for a mistake or something to happen during the show, due to the time spent on stage. But, the character of Elle has inspired me to be limitless. She is true to herself in ways no one in this world is. She allows who she is to always be welcome in the room, and she doesn’t read social cues because that would mean altering who she is in some way. I love that about her. Something everyone forgets is that Elle has always had the potential to get into Harvard and be considered “smart” or “academic”, however its the world she lives in that prevents her from realizing her true potential.
- What was the audition process like to play Elle Woods?
So I originally auditioned for one of the Delta Nu girls, Serena. I had no mindset of playing Elle. Though she is a beloved character whom I would dream of playing, I hadn’t considered myself to be capable of pulling off the role. I hadn’t prepared for the role, and when I received the callback, I had a lot of work to do. There were four girls in the running, and I was the only non blonde in the room. I felt out of place, and I connected that feeling to my Elle Woods. It worked I suppose! I still use that feeling in my performance, as I still feel wildly out of place. However, my cast is nothing but supportive and they make me feel at ease.
- How did you know that you wanted to play Elle Woods?
As I said, I actually did not have the idea to play Elle. Though I truly do love this role and am so gracious for the opportunity, I had no intention to play her, as I honestly did not believe I could do the role justice. I have felt now I proved myself wrong, and I hope everyone else thinks the same!
- What were the challenges of playing Elle Woods?
On top of my personal challenges physically with the role, I have had a hard time with the amount of work needed to put in in order to get through the show. I am asthmatic, and Elle has three large dances followed directly with high belting. I bedazzled my inhaler ready to use in on stage, however, it did not work into my tracking as well as hoped. I ended up training by going to the gym daily and training my lungs. I would go in the middle of the day about four times a week, when no-one was there, and I would run on the treadmill to one of the songs, “What You Want” which is a seven minute song which I am on stage almost in entirety, with the exception of when I do a quick change into a new costume. There are two stunts in the number, a tap break, and then I sing some harder notes in the end. I would run on the treadmill to the song, then play it again, and sing the whole thing while running. I was able to train my lungs to work with me, at least for the number and get through it without needing to take a puff of my inhaler.
- What has it been like for you, the cast and crew to be part of Legally Blonde?
The cast and crew had a great experience in this show. The production value is huge, as there are so many aspects and dimensions to the show, but we have learned so much and has been a great educational experience!
The next showtimes are November 2 at 7:30 p.m. and November 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Hartke Theartre. Click here to purchase your tickets ahead of time!