For Sarah Rosenthal in ‘Legally Blonde,’ opposites attract in an Elle of a role
Sarah Rosenthal is not Elle Woods.
Let’s clarify that statement. This star of CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s “Legally Blonde” plays Elle Woods in the new production that officially opens tonight (Friday, July 27) at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre. But she isn’t anything like her. Rosenthal will never be mistaken for Elle offstage.
Pictured above: Rosenthal in the color of the day in ‘Legally Blonde’ Photo: CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre
She doesn’t like pink. She doesn’t like dogs. She doesn’t like pink dogs. (Please, people, stop painting your poodles.) She isn’t perky. In her first year of college, she didn’t join a sorority. The only time she deigns to put on high heels is for church.
And, to seal the deal, we give you this: She isn’t a blonde.
In other words, Rosenthal gets a chance to act the heck out of a role by playing someone quite different from herself.
“That’s what makes it fun,” says the darker-haired 18-year-old, who just finished up her first year at Grand Canyon Canyon University in Phoenix. “You get on stage and become somebody else. I like the challenge.”
It’s Saturday afternoon before tech week, and Rosenthal is taking a break from rehearsal at the theater to talk about landing one of the most coveted roles of the summer.
She’s joined by Dakota Simpson, who plays Emmett, the Harvard Law School teaching assistant who takes Elle under his wing when she decides she really wants to be a lawyer. (Originally she goes from UCLA to Harvard just so she can win back her old boyfriend.)
“It took me about a week to get on Sarah’s good side,” he says of his offstage relationship with Rosenthal. A joke by him involving a high note fell flat during vocal rehearsals. Rosenthal was not amused. An Elle Woods might have done the always-humor-the-man thing and make him feel like a comedy king. Rosenthal made him work a little for her approval.
Now the pair has bonded and are able to joke about their first kiss, which will come later that evening at tech rehearsal.
“I bring a toothbrush with me everywhere I go just for general hygiene and courtesy,” Simpson says.
Rosenthal does like her co-stars, then, but what’s this about not liking dogs?
“I don’t hate them,” she assures me. “I think they’re really cute. But touching them is just not my thing.” Two dogs reside in her home, in fact — but they definitely belong to her mother and sister.
In the show, of course, Elle is very much a dog person. She lugs Bruiser, her chihuahua, to Harvard Law with her. In the CenterStage production, a dog named Penny plays opposite Rosenthal. They get along fine, but, again, dogs aren’t really her thing.
“I hold the dog a lot, and that was a little bit of a struggle for me,” she says.
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There’s even another dog for Rosenthal to play against, and that canine is getting star billing in the Clovis production. Victor E. Bulldog, the official Fresno State live mascot, plays Rufus, whose detainment becomes a key plot point.
Simpson is complimentary of Victor: “He’s a great scene partner. He’s well trained. He even does some tricks in the show.”
Still, hanging out with a couple of dogs is a small price to pay for the chance to play Elle. Rosenthal might not be a blonde, but she’s always wanted to try it out, at least for a couple of weekends. (She’s wearing a wig, by the way; no dye job for her.)
Her take on the character is different than Reese Witherspoon’s in the popular 2001 film on which the stage musical is based.
“I don’t play Elle as a dumb blonde,” she says. “I don’t think Elle is dumb at all. I think she is a people pleaser, and I think she wants what’s good for everybody else. But I think Elle is kind of insecure. She doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She pretends like she is. She plays this super perky girl because she wants everyone to think she’s confident.”
If truth be told, Rosenthal says she’s much more like the character of Vivienne in “Legally Blonde” — more reserved, less effusive, and definitely not a flashy dresser.
If there were any doubts about how much of an acting stretch it is for Rosenthal to play Elle, they were dispelled when the Clovis show’s costumer asked her if she had any clothes at home that could be used for the role.
“I told her I don’t own a single article of pink clothing,” Rosenthal says. “Not a skirt, not a shirt. Not pants. No pink. It’s definitely not my color.”