Legally Blonde comes to UB Center for the Arts
Bailey Humiston started acting in her mandatory fifth grade play, “Get on board with citizenship,” written for the class about acceptance
She sang “You Can’t Buy Friendship.” At that moment, she caught the bug.
“I’ve been in love with it ever since then,” Humiston, a senior musical theater major said. “I’ve been in a musical or two every year since then.”
Huminston is set to play Elle Woods in the upcoming UB production of “Legally Blonde.” The show will have ten performances, more than the usual six or eight that UB shows see, beginning Thursday Nov. 19.
“Legally Blonde” is the story of a sorority queen turned dedicated academic who pursues law school to win back the boy who broke her heart. Along the way, she learns she is more capable than she had ever previously believed.
“It’s a big show – the design, the splendor, the music, the comedy,” Humiston said. “We’ve been joking about it and calling it a freight train. If you fall off the freight train you’re never going to get back onto it.”
Humiston cites the mass amounts of outfit changes – especially “quick changes” – as the main source of all the chaos. Sometimes the entire ensemble needs to change all at once during a transition, so everyone backstage is just rushing to get his or her outfit on and go back out.
She’s not the only one who needs to move quickly. Sean Ryan, a senior musical theater major and member of the ensemble, said he has about 12 “quick changes.”
“Dressers” – people who are assigned to help him do things like button shirts and tie shoes to make the process go as smoothly and swiftly as possible – aid in this process.
“It takes practice; it’s something you have to do a few times,” Ryan said. “All of the clothes are laid out beforehand so once you’re offstage you just have to run over to them and move as quickly as you can.”
Ryan has been in other UB productions including “Urinetown” and “Les Misérables.” He said that this is the largest cast he’s ever been part of and that the group has become close after being together so often.
Ryan also said that the music may seem simple and catchy, but it’s actually very challenging.
“At first glance it’s not difficult, but it requires a lot of vocal strength,” Ryan said. “We’ve been working on it for a while, it’s a lot to learn since most of the show is singing.”
The cast has been working all semester on this production, and the director was cast in April. The department is able to get a new director every semester for the show – this semester it’s Keith Andrews, a director from New York City who has worked on shows like “Spamalot” and “Saturday Night Fever.”
In the final weeks before the show, Humiston lives in the theater department.
“I’m here all the time. You don’t leave. It’s insanity – my alarm went off and I was late for class, but I accepted it. It’s part of the craziness of the week and it hadn’t happened before today,” she said.
Nicole Weitzman, a junior musical theater major, plays Paulette – an older woman who becomes Woods’ friend and mentor – in the production. She describes the weeks before the show as hectic, but in a good way.
“The show is a marathon,” Weitzman said. “Every song is a big production and once it starts, it doesn’t stop.”
For Weitzman, opening night is a chance to finally share something that everyone has been working hard towards.
Not everyone in the production has experience in singing. Kevin Nagel, a senior theater major, has never really gotten into the singing portion of the stage.
“I’ve been told I’m not tone-deaf, but I’ve never been trained,” Nagel said. “So I have a small, non-singing role.”
This is the first UB production Nagel has been in. He has done other shows outside of the campus through Warped Productions including “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.”
Nagel felt it was important he try out for a part and participate in the show in his last year.
“I felt like in order to call yourself part of the program it’s important to try out and be part of the show,” Nagel said. “Being around musical theater people is great – they’re all so experienced and well-rounded. I’ve even learned to read sheet music and pick up on timing with song.”
Humiston said her favorite production was “Spring Awakening” last semester, but “Legally Blonde” is definitely high up on her list of favorites.
The actress always knew she wanted to pursue theater after high school, though it took some time to convince her parents it would work out.
“I knew my parents wanted me to go into something ‘practical,’” Humiston said. “I knew that this was what I wanted. It was what I wanted to do with my life. This is the one consistent thing in my life that has made me happy thus far, so I feel like I need to pursue it.”
The actress is from Orchard Park, so she commutes from home to UB, along with her dog, who plays Bruiser – Woods’ chihuahua – in the production.
“They needed a dog,” Humiston said. “Mine has played Toto in a production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ before, so I knew she could handle it. She kind of has a résumé.”
Humiston will be graduating this semester. She’s moving to Los Angeles post-graduation to begin pursuing a career in film and television acting.
She knew that a move was inevitable – many go to New York City after graduation. She wanted to try the harder West Coast first and see what happened there before heading closer to home.
Though she’s excited about the move and pursuing something different than she’s been working through at UB, she will miss everyone at UB.
“I’m moving in January, and it’s really bittersweet to be leaving them. They’re definitely my biggest inspiration and my biggest supporters,” She said.
The theater department has a unique dynamic to it since students are forced to compete against each other for roles and then work closely together in the production for months at a time.
Humiston thinks everyone is very supportive of each other, despite the inherent competition.
“It’s what you’d expect it to be. We are very loving of each other as well. Of course you’re going to have drama in any department you’re in,” Humiston said. “We’re a very small department – regardless of your role, we can all come together and make something that’s amazing every single time.”
Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.