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Nearly 20 years ago, I met my favorite lawyer: Elle Woods. And starting September 19 through October 6, Birmingham will get to experience her bubbling blonde brilliance live on stage during Virginia Samford Theatre’s three week run of Legally Blonde: The Musical. This show is the first of the theater’s 2019-2020 season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Find out why and grab your tickets here!
“I feel comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life.”
Legally Blonde, a novel written by Amanda Brown, arrived on the scene in 2001. Later that year, the iconic film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon hit the big screen and sealed the story’s place in pop culture history. Then in 2007, Legally Blonde: The Musical debuted on Broadway starring Laura Bell Bundy, who presented a fresh take on the beloved character.
Now Shelby Terrell, the lead actress for Virginia Samford Theatre’s production of the musical, will be delivering her own version of Elle Woods here in the Magic City. I recently had the chance to sit down with Shelby and pick her brain about everything from her life in Birmingham to Legally Blonde and Virginia Samford Theatre (VST).
Warner: “You got into Harvard Law?”
Elle: “What? Like it’s hard?”
Born and raised in Nashville, Shelby grew up loving music and dreaming of a future on the stage. She performed in musicals throughout her childhood and landed her first major role as Maureen Johnson in Rent during the summer preceding her senior year of high school.
“That role really put me on track,” says Shelby.
During her senior year of high school, Shelby auditioned with several college programs and wrestled with the direction she wanted her career to go: musical performance or musical theater?
“I had to sit down and really think about which one I loved more, and I decided it was theater. That’s what led me to Samford,” says Shelby. She graduated from Samford University last May, 2019 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theater.
“I’d pick the dangerous one because
I’m not afraid of a challenge.”
Earlier this year, Shelby relocated to Atlanta to further pursue her theater career. But when she came back to Birmingham to visit friends, she learned about auditions for VST’s upcoming production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.
Shelby saw the show starring its original Broadway cast when she was in fifth grade. In her own words, she left the performance “completely obsessed.”
“Since then, I’ve always wanted to play Elle Woods,” says Shelby. “And that’s why I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, especially with VST.”
“Just bend…and snap!”
According to Shelby, developing her own interpretation of Elle Woods has been the most challenging aspect of Legally Blonde: The Musical.
“I want to be true to who I think Elle Woods is and also make sure the audience gets those iconic moments that they’re here for, like the bend and snap,” says Shelby. “The bend and snap has to be perfect!”
For anyone who knows and loves Legally Blonde, there is something about Elle Woods’s relentless courage and determination that draws you into her world. Shelby believes those are qualities that will resonate with the audience.
“People are really starting to take notice of women standing up for themselves and being confident in who they are and their own abilities. I think this story has a special place within that conversation,” says Shelby. “Everyone has their Harvard.”
“You must always have faith in people, and most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”
Located in the heart of Highland Park, the Virginia Samford Theatre has held a special place in the community for more than 90 years. It also holds a special place in the lives of actors and actresses like Shelby.
Ultimately, what Shelby enjoys the most about VST is the openness of the community and its willingness to reach as many people as possible with powerful and empowering stories from the stage.
“Two years ago, I worked at VST on a production called Marvelous Wonderettes, which was so much fun,” says Shelby. “I knew that I loved this theatre and the people involved in it. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get involved here and be part of it again.”
“Oh, is this like an RSVP thing?”
Don’t miss this opportunity to see Shelby and the rest of the cast of Legally Blonde: The Musical. You can purchase tickets online from the Virginia Samford Theatre.
Legally Blonde opens on September 19 and runs through October 6. Catch the show on Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 2:30 p.m.