Behind the scenes of Ipswich’s Children’s Theatre Company’s take on Legally Blonde The Musical at the New Wolsey Theatre

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak - Credit: Archant

Have you been practising your bend and snap? Don’t worry if you haven’t, the Children’s Theatre Company Ipswich will teach you at tonight’s opening performance of Legally Blonde The Musical.

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak - Credit: Archant

They’re “polishing, polishing, polishing” when I stop by rehearsals at Ipswich Town Hall one hot Sunday morning.

Based on the smash hit film starring Reese Witherspoon, this award-winning musical follows Elle Woods’ transformation from shallow sorority queen to Harvard Law School swot; tackling stereotypes, snobbery and scandal along the way.

“It was only released for a short period... It was sought-after particularly in this area, so we were really pleased to get the rights. I wasn’t expecting to hear so quick and remember screaming and calling my mum straight away to say we got it. We weren’t expecting it because it’s such a popular title and so new,” says Bridie Rowe, artistic director.

This was two years ago when they were staging Grease. She knew the company, famous for mixing things up from one show to the next, were going to do something serious after that. It’s also important for members to try different genres too as it stretches them as performers.

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak - Credit: Archant

“We did West Side Story and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - as you say - is happy and energetic but has ‘those’ moments. Legally Blonde is full on. It’s always attractive when a new title comes out and to be given the rights is quite an accolade.”

If you saw their production of Joseph you’ll recognise many of the cast.

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Many of the same academy members auditioned for parts in Legally Blonde and it was always Rowe’s idea to try to replicate the feel of a professional rep company.

“The company members were ecstatic. They love doing something new, but it’s so fun and really upbeat. I think a lot of them had seen it (the stage musical). The film was probably before their time in terms of when they would’ve watched it, but they all know it.

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak - Credit: Archant

“Every rehearsal is fun... There are a couple of moments where we’ve really tried to bring out the emotion, but it’s not that type of show. It’s full on cheese, it’s all pink, so much pink.”

Rowe says most of the girls went for Elle, which she thinks is probably the most full-on, hardest, female role in musical theatre she’s ever come across because the character doesn’t leave the stage.

“In act one she has seven, maybe eight, quick changes and they all happen within 30 seconds, half a page. Sammy Stringer played Anybodys in West Side Story and was in Joseph. This is her first lead, but she’s doing extremely well.”

She approaches every show the same, thinking ‘oh that won’t be quite so hard as...’.

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Sammy Stringer stars in ctc Ipswich's production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo: Mike Kwasniak - Credit: Archant

“Nooo, this is so hard because it’s sung through and the singing is much more complicated than anyone would ever imagine. It’s full-blown harmonies in so many songs, when you watch or listen to it you just get so caught up in the show you don’t realise. You’ve got a high dance content; it never stops so the scene changes are going to be challenging because there are no blackouts or it just has to happen while other action is going on. Act one in particular, it’s like a train and then it’s gone.”

The longer companies run, the harder it gets to find shows. The ctc, adds Rowe, have been fortunate with what they’ve picked. Although they had to move their production of Joseph to The Apex when the professional tour came to the Regent.

“We were surprised when Les Miserables sold out, I know it’s huge but we were quite new. I suppose that’s the year we established ourselves, but I worry every year about ticket sales. It’s only natural but you have other companies fighting for shows as well so it’s tricky.”

Next show is Cats at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Audition dates have been set but planning for that won’t begin until later in the summer.

“We don’t like to do things by halves,” she grins. “We try to challenge them in a different way with each show. Legally Blonde requires all three disciplines - acting, with lots of comedy; singing and dancing. With Cats, obviously the dance challenge is huge. We have faith our team can bring it out of them and everybody’s so excited.”

Legally Blonde, by the children’s theatre company Ipswich runs from July 20-23 at the New Wolsey Theatre.

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