'Legally Blonde' kicks off at park
HUNTINGTON — There will be one hot blonde, two dogs and one largemouth singing 'Bass' hanging out in Ritter Park Amphitheater this July as Huntington Outdoor Theater's 19th season features the romantic comedy musical "Legally Blonde."
Best known for the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon and which inspired the Broadway musical, "Legally Blonde" dances its way into the park for a July run that kicks off this weekend.
Directed by Helen Freeman and starring Kathryn Davis, two dog actors named Princess and Rufus, and such colorful theater veterans as Kennie Bass, "Legally Blonde" is set to run July 6-8, July 13-15, July 20-22 and July 27-29.
The main show, which is accompanied by a live orchestra with musical direction by Mark Smith (keyboardist for Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.) begins at 8:30 p.m. with the children's preshow "A Tribute to Legends" beginning at 7 p.m. and a community preshow at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. for picnicking. Folks may bring their own baskets although full concessions are available.
General admission $15, seniors 65 and better and children ages 5-12 are $13. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free.
Tickets may be purchased at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena or at the gate on the nights of the show. Group rates are available. For more information, call 304-412-3393.
Freeman said they're excited to stage the hip, hot musical that tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner but then discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial.
"I picked 'Legally Blonde' because I knew it would draw and because it's a really fun, upbeat show that is just great for outside," said Freeman, of the show which is rated PG.
Freeman said they had lots of people audition for the lead role, played by Witherspoon in the movie and Mercury Records recording artist Laura Bell Bundy on Broadway. Freeman said no one stood out like Kathryn Davis, who was in the 2004 H.O.T. show "Footloose" and who in a quirky twist of fate is in fact a young attorney practicing at Huddleston Bolen LLP in Huntington.
"I think she had it from the time she walked in and the moment she opened her mouth," Freeman said. "She has a real distinctive voice, and when she walks in you think she's so beautiful, she's so sweet and she's so cute. All in a second you say those three words. When she opened her mouth to sing everybody just went 'whoa.' You could see it in people's faces. They all wanted her to be Elle, and she works so hard. I will tell her something and she will work real hard until she gets it. She's just a lovely person."
Now in her 19th year of putting on H.O.T., Freeman has seen it all -- incredible highs and lows of trying to keep community theater alive in the summer.
This year, though, the trouble and drama level went to 11 when last Friday's storm hit while she was at the printer's and her cast was rehearsing at Ritter Park.
Freeman drove across downed limbs and under a tree across a road to get to the amphitheater where she found her cast and crew safe. They were without power until Tuesday when they were able to find a commercial-grade generator to ensure that the show would go on with proper sound and lighting.
Although she's been battling the elements and loss of power, Freeman said she feels lucky to have such great people by her side including long-time musical director Mark Smith, who's best known these days for backing nationally touring act Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.
Smith, who has gigs with Murphy in July in California, Utah, Michigan and Clarksburg, W.Va., is still vocal coach and musical director for the show, although he's not physically playing H.O.T., something he's done for years.
In addition to the main show and the community pre-show, which often features a who's who of H.O.T. alums and other Tri-State talent living both here and folks visiting, is the children's pre-show.
This year, that perennial favorite part of the show is called "A Tribute to Legends," with the dynamic duo of directors Kerri Easter Stambaugh and Smith, guiding the kids through a music tribute to such late music icons as Whitney Houston, Randy Gibb of The Bee Gees, Donna Summer and Dick Clark.
"The pre-show is always very cute but this year they're really dancing and singing like nobody's business," Freeman said. "There are so many great songs like 'Bandstand,' and Whitney's 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody.' "
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