Sunday, 5 May 2019

WHITLEY BAY OPERATIC SOCIETY PRESENTS: LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL AT WHITLEY BAY PLAYHOUSE





At the Whitley Bay Christmas market last year (2018) I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Tawse, Secretary for the Whitley Bay Operatic Society while I was representing the Society selling tickets to their Legally Blonde show, set to begin May 1st 2019. When I asked Steve about the chances of being allowed backstage to write a blog post, I was surprised – and chuffed! – to be given complimentary tickets to the show’s matinee on May 4th at Whitley Bay Playhouse!


Haven’t seen Legally Blonde?

Basically, it’s about a blonde girl called Elle Woods who is dumped for not being ‘serious’ enough, so she works her butt off and gets into Harvard Law School, where she hopes to win back her ex-boyfriend. Initially, everyone underestimates Elle and she struggles to fit in, and with her ex’s new girlfriend turning the other students against her she devotes herself to her studies and wins an internship with one of the Professors as he represents a fitness guru accused of murder. After her Professor hits on her, Elle manages to take over the entire court case and proves the client innocent.




Going to the stage door, I won’t lie; there were nerves there. I’d never been backstage before or interviewed cast members but I’m all for having new experiences; especially when they have the potential to create good content for, I’m NOT Disordered! But I pushed through the nerves and knocked on the door!


 


Steve introduced me to some of the cast members and we started off with a quick Q&A with Caroline Sabiston who played Vivienne (the ex’s new girlfriend!). I was really chuffed to hear that she’d actually been reading the blog and enjoying some of the previous posts and she talked about how she really supported people speaking openly about mental health after having her own experiences and helping at a support group for others struggling. We talked about how personal experience, in the mental health industry, is its own qualification and can be more beneficial than a professional coming in with a University degree. We also bonded over our use of the Mindfulness coping skill that I learnt through Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Caroline told me how helpful it had been in getting her back into the drama industry after a long struggle: “I would go to auditions and I was so anxious and so nervous that I was almost, self-sabotaging my auditions… I lost my passion and my love for it as well.”


If you could have been any other character, who would you have been? 


“Paulette… I think she’s just got such a lovely heart, and she’s so sweet and she’s really vulnerable as well and she’s totally honest… She gets a great song; Ireland – which is a fab one! And she has quite a nice character journey too.”


What’s your favourite part in the show?

“The Legally Blonde remix! I don’t sing very much in the show and that’s my main sing-y bit!”


What would be your one piece of advice for someone dealing with anxiety and stress?

“I think the thing that’s helped me the most is staying in the present moment because a lot of the time – I find with anxiety particularly – there’s future worries. Your mind will just run about things that are coming up, what you’ve got to do… but if you actually bring yourself back to now, you realize that all you have to think about is what is literally happening in that moment. And that – for me - has been a real savior.”





After a tour of the stage, the props corner, a chat with the lovely Stage Manager, and some photos with Steve(!), we returned to the girl’s dressing room to chat with the leading lady; Bethanie Mitchinson who played Elle Woods…


If you could play any other character, who would it be?

“Probably one of the Delta Nu girls! They get all the fun numbers! It’s a little bit less pressure!”


What’s your favourite part of the show?

“I really like ‘Take It Like A Man’ which is the Department store song and the Legally Blonde song, that’s mine and ‘Emmett’s (‘Elle’s new love interest) duet. It’s a nice one. It’s quite emotional!”


How do you cope with the pressure and stress?

“Surrounding myself with lovely people! There’s a lot of support here and everyone’s lovely to each other and we’re all best friends really! And just, reminding myself that it’s a hobby and I do it for fun. It’s a pretty big part and I am really proud of myself for doing it. And I know even if I slip up a few times I’ll still have done a decent job. Hopefully!”


Then it was back to the stage with Bryony Souza-Hawkins who plays the fitness guru; Brooke, who is falsely accused of the murder of her husband…


If you could play any other character who would it be and why?

“I think probably Vivienne. Just because of the turn-around in her, she comes across as quite a bitch when it starts off and then she completely does a 180!”


How do you cope with stress and anxiety before the performance?

I try and take deep breaths before I go on. I’m actually only on stage in the second half so before I go on I try and go through my lines in my head and the I take some deep breaths in and out. And just make sure I’ve rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed. Make sure I know what I’m doing!”


What’s your favourite part of the show?

“The Legally Blonde remix! I love that number! I’m literally only on it at the very end but I think the audience really get involved!”


And then my old General Studies teacher from Sixth Form arrived; Phil Dixon (who I still always call Mr Dixon!) to play his role as ‘Elle’s Dad’…


If you could play anyone else in the show, who would it be?

“It would be Kyle. The delivery man! It’s such a fun part and fun character. He gets the best lines!”


What’s your favourite part of the show?

I like the Legally Blonde remix – it’s such a massive number! And we’re all in it! So everyone’s jumping around… It’s about two thirds of the way through the second act. It’s when she (Elle Woods) suddenly decides that she’s going to represent Brooke at the trial and she gets her passion for it. It’s great fun!”


How do you cope with the stress and anxiety of this?

“It depends on the size of the role that I’m playing; the anxiety and the stress is variable. I always still get very nervous before I go on stage but that’s what I use that as my adrenaline boost to get me through it… And I feel so relaxed in this environment, this is comforting.”


Finally, I headed to the props corner to sit on Elle’s bed with Matthew McGuire who played Emmett…


If you could play any other character who would it be? 



“Probably one of the Delta Nu girls. I know it’s not a male role but it seems like the most fun role to be! They’re on quite a lot and they supply the comedy to the show. And they’re kind of – in a sense – the Narrator’s of the show… they keep the show moving.”


What’s your favourite part of the show?

“I think, Take It Like A Man. SO that’s basically the song where Emmett goes to the department store with Elle and she changes his appearance. It’s the part of the show where his exterior matches his interior. He’s always been a nice person, he’s always been a good person, he’s always been good at his job; but externally he hasn’t mirrored that. And Elle helps him change on the outside to match what’s inside. I think it’s a really slick, polished number. And it’s not a massive dance number!”


How do you cope with the stress and anxiety of performing?

“It is just about having fun. If you simplify it just to that, it takes off a lot of the pressure straight away.”

















And the actual show? WOW! I loved that it was immediately excitable and girly! You know how you get some shows and movies where they start off a bit slow? Yeah, this wasn’t like that! I loved all of the music numbers (there’s one song in particular that is now stuck in my head!) and thought that Nicola Hewett who played Paulette (one of Elle’s new friends at Harvard) had an incredible voice! My favourite character was Elle Woods because I feel like Bethanie did a really good job of playing all of the angles well; she nailed the vulnerability when her relationship ends, the comedy moments with her sorority friends, the determination when everyone knocks her back, and the despair when everything seems to be failing. 


Also got to say; you ain’t seen nothing ‘til you’ve seen Mr Dixon’s Irish Dancing!



SNAPS!!




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