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Behind the scenes of Legally Blonde at Zilker Park: Cast and crew prepare for the 65th annual free summer musical at Zilker’s Hillside Theater – Arts

Behind the scenes of Legally Blonde at Zilker Park: Cast and crew prepare for the 65th annual free summer musical at Zilker’s Hillside Theater – Arts

photo by Aaron Sullivan

On a hot, humid June evening near Barton Springs Pool, the air is filled with the sounds of piano and tight vocal harmonies. Head up the hill, turn the corner and find the company of the 65th annual Zilker Park Summer Musical, Legally Blonde Musicalduring one of the first rehearsals at the Hillside Theatre in the Park.

A shroud of picnic blankets and beach umbrellas covers the lawn in front of the stage as the creative team rushes to prepare for the night rehearsal. Some cast members don sunglasses and hats to protect themselves from the blazing sun.

Stagehands prepare an empty stage with a partially completed set for a prompt 7 p.m. rehearsal. Stage director Jason Kruger calls the cast into position for the beginning of “Whipped Into Shape,” a fiery number that highlights the ensemble’s skipping skills. As Kylie Brunngraber—playing Brooke Wyndam, Elle’s client convicted of murder—takes a position on the black stage floor, the effect of the sun’s heat becomes apparent.

“Don’t sit down,” warns Kruger Brunngraber. “It’s too hot.”

The cast has spent the past three weeks at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School preparing the show for its outdoor transition. Beginning the fourth week of rehearsals on June 24, the company has been slowly adding more elements of the final production to rehearsals.

“We wanted it to be modern,” Kruger says of her vision for the series. “There were so many things that felt dated: references, things like that. But the universal message is about being true to who you are. I think what’s beautiful is that the story is really about a young woman discovering who she is and that she’s more than the stereotype that people think she is.”

The show’s message resonated with Kruger, a father of college-age daughters, and he and the rest of the creative team met last fall, making thematic choices that carry over into every element of the production.

“We had a lot of discussions about the color pink,” Kruger says. “But that’s the beauty of theater. The audience won’t say, ‘Oh, I saw you develop pink!’ But they will understand that there are subtle progressions and changes that help create a somewhat unified vision with all the elements.”

The show’s star, Megan Hudson as Elle Woods, dreamed of being on Zilker’s stage as a young girl. She adds Legally Blonde as her third production at Zilker Park, after Shrek AND Little Mermaid“When I got the call, ShrekI was over the moon,” Hudson said. “I loved being a part of it years ago. Why wouldn’t I audition again? It’s such a special community.”

As Zilker Theatre Productions Executive Director David Ponton said, that community extends beyond the stage as the company aims to provide as much access as possible to high-quality theatre.

“We don’t charge for any of our shows,” Ponton said. “But this year, in the spirit of inclusivity, we’ve added Thursday night sensory performances.”

Zilker Theatre Productions is partnering with ACES, a group dedicated to serving the neuroatypical community, to provide sensory toys and gadgets to audiences in need.

In addition to the availability of the program, Legally Blonde has the opportunity to introduce people to Austin’s six-and-a-half-year tradition and the city’s thriving arts scene. “There will be some young kids (who) will go see the musical for the first time because it’s accessible,” Kruger says. “I hope people come and see the show because we want to have an audience, but more importantly, I’m doing it for the people (who) can’t see the theater.”

Legally Blonde Musical

July 12-August 17, Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater

zilker.org