BWW Interviews: Omaha Community Playhouse's 'Elle Woods' Leanne Hill Carlson
Omigod you guys, Legally Blonde has taken over the Omaha Community Playhouse!
Based on the hit movie, Legally Blonde follows blonde beauty Elle Woods as she journeys from her California campus to Harvard Law School. This sassy story of self-empowerment is a hysterically funny, feel-good musical with catchy songs and unforgettable characters. Legally Blonde will leave you singing "‘Omigod You Guys’ let’s go again!"
The production features music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach, and is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture. Legally Blonde is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International. Omaha Community Playhouse's show will be directed by Carl Beck with music director Jim Boggess and choreographer Melanie Walters, with dog handler Sandi Hansen.
This week BroadwayWorld in Omaha Editor Cole Snider had the chance to sit down with the star of the show, Leanne Hill Carlson who plays Elle Woods.
First off, why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I'm originally from Papillion which is a small suburb of Omaha. I got my bachelor's degree in musical theatre at Sam Houston in Texas and then I came back here to Omaha in order to go to get my master's degree at University of Nebraska Medical Center, so I'm a physician's assitant and I do that part-time. I try to do theatre as much as I can though. I have a husband, Mark and I have an almost 2-year old son, Henry.
So you do theatre more so on the side, whenever you get a chance?
Right, I really do it when I find something that I am passionate about. Hopefully, I will be able to audition and get it! I did do Opera Omaha, I did one of the main parts in their last production, so there are some professional opportunities around town too.
What would you say is the best part about being in Legally Blonde?
It's so hard, because I am on stage the whole time and really I just look forward to everything! I am always like "Oh, good this scene's next!", "Oh, yay this scene's next!". I'd probably say that if I were watching the show and the moment of pure like fun is when we are doing the Bend and Snap and the guys come out and go "Damn!". I love that! But I just love everything about Elle, I look forward to being her every night.
So you have a degree in musical theatre, did you ever dream of running away to New York City to perform on Broadway?
I still do! (laughs)
So what keeps you from that dream? Is it the family life?
You know that's kind of hard, I think I should have probably done it when I had the chance to, like at twenty two. I don't know, I was just scared I guess. Then I came back here, got my master's, got married, now I have a child. Obviously, if an opportunity arose that I was like, "Okay, I have to do it!" then I would.
What is it like performing in a show while having a child at home?
It's more difficult, mainly because after the show you're so excited and you don't want to go to bed right away. You want to go out and have pizza, or whatever! I have to get up whenever Henry gets up, luckily on the weekends my husband will do that. It's just balancing everything, he's a lot of fun though and I think he will appreciate it in a couple of years.
Though some might think it is easy, Elle Woods is not an easy role to play, what would you say is the most difficult part of playing Elle?
When I started preparing for this role, which was way before I even got the role, you know six, seven months ago, I thought the hardest part would be the singing and just having the stamina to go through the show, it probably is. At one point, the hardest part was the costume changes, but now I'm used to those. So now it's keeping myself well, I can't talk a lot during the day, I have to be very careful. It's the most demanding role I've ever played.
Did you ever have the opportunity to see Legally Blonde in New York or on Tour?
I saw it on tour! I was like eight months pregnant and I was like "Oh, I want to be Elle!". It's a role of a lifetime and this will probably be the only chance I get to play it.
Would you say that your version of Elle was based more off of Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde the Movie), Laura Bell Bundy (Original Elle on Broadway) or Bailey Hanks (Successor to Laura Bell Bundy)?
That's a good question!
I'm sure you watched everything!
Yeah, I did, I did! I watched all of the MTV Series, everything! I listened to documentaries on the movie. So I think I have a little bit of everything. I try to kind of pay homage to one or the other at one point, but then I also try to make her my own. So there is one point where I go "Omigod Warner!" and that's like totally Reese! I know there are points where I'm like "I have to keep that from Laura Bell" because it's a perfect thing for that moment.
Legally Blonde is a fun and quirky show, but there's a lesson behind it. What do you hope that the audience takes from this show?
Well, my biggest hope and I've seen a lot of this age people come through is that the younger girls get a little bit of a self-empowerment "I can do whatever I want in life and I don't have to have my life run by whatever a man wants to do.". So whenever I see those younger teenagers or nine year olds come by and just look at me with stars in their eyes, I just hope that they can take that away.
If you could play any part, which would you choose and why?
Without regards to race? (laughs) Kim, in Miss Saigon, even though I'm a blond and pretty typically caucasian. I just love her music and I can sing the heck out of it, darnit! (laughs)
What inspired you to become an actress?
I've always loved it! My parents have this story that when I was like four, they took me to Annie and I got onstage during intermission and started singing the Annie songs, so there you go! I've just always love it!
You are part of a cast that varies in age and experience, do you think that, that makes it more difficult or more rewarding?
I could see both, although this cast has been nothing but like super nice and friendly! Those kids, they are working their buns off and this is their first show they've ever done, outside of high school, you know, some of them. It's pretty impressive to me and they really bring a lot of energy to it, so it's very rewarding!
What can we expect to see you in next, what are you hoping for or what do you have planned?
My year has been very busy, usually I'll do like two a year, just because of my family, they're big committments you know, three or four months at a time. This year I did three back-to-back, so I'm gonna take a break for a little while, so we'll see! Hopefully something fun will come my way, I had my heart set on Elle and I got it so that's a good way to end and take a break!
If you get the chance to check out this wonderful show, I would highly recommend it! The cast is led by a strong cast and has a great ensemble of supporting characters!
The show runs now through Oct. 14, 2012; Wednesday–Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m., at Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre, 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.
Tickets can be purchased at the OCP Box Office by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.org or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets are $40 for adults, $24 for students. Group tickets are $29 for adults, $18 for students. On Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 4 p.m. tickets will be $10 for that evening’s show at the Box Office. Cash or check only.
Photo Credit: Omaha Community Playhouse