Sometimes it pays off to trade a summer in Boston for one at home.
Home being Baton Rouge, where Center Stage Performing Arts Academy is staging Legally Blonde: The Musical.
This is Bailey Purvis’ all-time favorite musical. She saw it on the Broadway stage when she was in eighth grade, and she’s dreamed of playing Elle Woods since that time.
She’ll be a junior at the Boston Conservatory in the fall, where she’s studying musical theater. And she’d already set up a job with a professional theater in Boston when she learned Center Stage would be performing Legally Blonde.
That was last fall after Linda Schexnaydre learned the academy had been granted rights to the production.
“Linda kept checking online to see when the rights were going to be released,” Larry Schexnaydre said. “She applied one minute after midnight after they were released, and we learned the next morning that we had been granted the rights. It was that fast.”
Larry is Linda’s husband. They are the academy’s co-founders and directors. Larry Schexnaydre is co-director of this production, and Chris Pyfrom is both the musical and technical director.
The show will open Friday, July 6, at the Manship Theatre in the Shaw Center for the Arts.
That’s when Purvis will become Elle. Really become Elle.
Because Elle Woods has been a performance in her imagination until this time. Purvis remembers listening to the original Broadway recording each day while riding to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts on weekdays with other class members from the academy.
It’s where Linda Schexnaydre drove them on weekdays, where they earned their diplomas. And it was on that ride between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where they would plot out who would play which characters when they would finally have a chance to perform in the musical.
Of course, Purvis would always claim the part of Elle.
“I wasn’t going to audition at first,” Purvis said. “But then I knew I had to.”
Yes, she did. And now she joined her fellow cast members at this particular moment in rehearsing the show’s opening number “Omigod You Guys” at the academy.
Center Stage Performing Arts Academy is located in Gonzales. Its summer musical usually is performed in the Cafetorium at Dutchtown High School, then moved to Baton Rouge Little Theater.
But the cafetorium is receiving a facelift this summer and is unavailable. So, all performances will be in the Manship, which has its advantages.
“We’ve never been able to build fly sets, but we’ve been able to do that for the Manship Theatre,” Larry Schexnaydre said.
A fly or rigging system allows safe support and quick change scenery and lighting. One such set will be Elle’s Delta Nu sorority house, which will appear only in the opening scene. It’s tall, and sorority sisters will be peeking out upstairs and downstairs windows while singing.
Center Stage’s production will mark the first time Legally Blonde: The Musical will be performed in the Baton Rouge area. Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin wrote the music and lyrics, and Heather Hatch wrote the book, which is based on Amanda Brown’s 2001 novel Legally Blonde, as well as the 2001 film, which starred Reece Witherspoon as Elle.
The musical opened on April 29, 2009, in Broadway’s Palace Theatre. It tells the story of California sorority girl Elle Woods, who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner.
But along the way, Elle discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial.
“This character inspires me,” Purvis said. “She is so positive, and she touches everyone around her in a positive way.”
Also inspired is Tyler Huckstep, not so much by his character Emmett Forrest but by the people he’s met while rehearsing for this show.
Huckstep is a student at the Cincinnati Center for Performing Arts, where several Center Stage alumni are currently enrolled. He learned of the production from his Louisiana classmates and decided to submit an audition tape.
Huckstep won a part in the musical and decided to spend his summer in Baton Rouge instead of his hometown of Crawfordsville, Ind. “I didn’t get the part of Emmett at first,” he said. “That part went to someone else, but that person wasn’t able to do the play, so they asked me.”
And now Huckstep’s in Louisiana, where he feels at home among friendly people.
“The people of Louisiana have been so great,” Huckstep said. “Everyone here has been so friendly to me. I can’t say enough about the people here. I love it.”
So does Purvis.
Because the only thing better than playing the part of Elle Woods is the opportunity to play her at home.
- CAST: Bailey Purvis, Elle Woods; Andrew DiGerlamo, Warner Huntingon III/Winthrop; Emily Schexnaydre, Vivienne Kensington; Tyler Huckstep, Emmett Forrest; Chase Duhe, Professor Callahan; Taylor Morgan, Paulette Bonofonte; Lauren Waguespack, Brooke Wyndham; Bryn Purvis, Pilar; Hally Lambert, Margot; Madison Levy, Serena; Courtney Wolf, Enid Hoopes; Thomas Knapp, Aaron Schultz/Carlos/Jet Blue Pilot, Frat Boy; Cordon Coates, Sundeep Padamadan/Nikos; Chelsea Landry, Kate/Chutney; Luc Tuminski, Kyle the UPS Guy/Grandmaster Chad/Dewey; Kaitlyn Johnson, Leilani/D.A. Joyce Riley; Jada Roper, Whitney/H&H salesgirl; Kaitlyn Cayotte, Store Manager/Judge; Colbi Landry, Dana/Elle’s Mom; Regan Wild, Gaelen/Stenographer; Catherine Mahan, TV Reporter; Taylor Johnson, Perfume Girl; Jake Bowers, Lowell/Elle’s Dad; Adam Johnson, Pforzheimer; Austen Schexnaydre, Beer Bash Dancer; Adam Johnson, Beer Bash Dancer.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Larry Schexnaydre, director; Chris Pyfrom, musical director and lighting designer; Emily Schexnaydre, choreographer; Gerald Kleinpeter, set designer; Linda Schexnaydre, costumes; Mary Pyfrom, stage manager; Anna Ferrell, stage manager.