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Spotlight interview: Rebecca Coffey belts it out in Visalia Players’ ‘Legally Blonde.’ Pink definitely suits her.

There are lots of perks to playing Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde”: You get to wear a lot of pink. You get to co-star with a huggable character named Bruiser. And, perhaps best of all, you get that moment in the theater that any leading lady dreams of: standing in front of an audience and belting out a really long note.

Pictured above: Rebecca Coffey plays Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde.’ Photo: Visalia Players

What is it like for Rebecca Coffey, who is starring in the new Visalia Players production of the musical, in those moments when she takes her final breath in the first-act finale, “So Much Better”?

“I feel like I own the theater,” she says. “That song is so powerful and is such a woman empowerment song. This is the turning point for Elle, so when I perform it I really get my mind and body into the moment. I feel the whole song is a build up to that ending note, so right before it comes, I just tell myself, ‘Here you go, give it everything you got, and leave it all on the stage!’ ”

The Visalia production, now in its opening weekend, runs through April 10 at the Ice House Theatre. I caught up with Coffey by phone and email to learn more about her – including perhaps her most distinctive acting role.

Q: I love hearing about the wacky jobs that actors have. You spent three seasons doing what sounds like “improv terror” on the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach, of all places. Who was your favorite ghost character and what was your favorite scare technique?

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A: I was fortunate to play many characters in my three years with Dark Harbor but my favorites were Graceful Gale and Room B340 Murdered Maid. Both characters had amazing makeup done by the professional makeup artist and were very different to play. The Murdered Maid was a very physical and vocal role where I could use my voice, high-pitch laughing, and jump scare techniques with the guest. Graceful Gale was a non speaking role where I got to use soft physical dance like ability to scare guests. And with Gale, I would use my eyes a lot to really freak guests out.

Q: If the ghost of Professor Callahan (the meanie in “Legally Blonde”) tried to haunt you today, what would be your ghostbuster technique?

A: Sending Professor Callahan’s Ex Wife after him. 😉

Q: Besides scaring tourists in Long Beach, tell us about some of your other theater background.

A: I received my bachelor’s degree from Fresno State in theater. I have done theater in Visalia, Fresno, Porterville, and Los Angeles. I mostly have been in musicals, because I am huge musical theater nerd. I began doing musicals my junior year of high school. Besides acting, I have done choreography for musicals and cheerleading. I made my directorial debut last year with “The Bright Lights of Broadway” at the Ice House Theater, which was the first show to open up the theater since the shut down.

Q: You were in “Time Again in Oz” at Fresno State. I hadn’t thought about that show in years! What’s one memory you have from it?

A: This was the first show I was cast as a main role at Fresno State. I played the character, Ozma. It was actually what I would call “my Elle Woods moment of seeing my name up on the list.” I was so excited when I got to play that role because I felt I was getting a chance to showcase my talent as a musical theater performer.

Q: How did you get involved with the Visalia Players?

A: It was quite random, actually. A friend who I met at a dance studio I was working at mentioned to me the Visalia Players were holding auditions for a show she was choreographing and encouraged me to go audition. Well I did, was cast, and then the journey began.

Q: This production of “Legally Blonde” definitely has a close, community feel. There are a number of “family combinations” in the cast. Tell me about them.

A: We are so fortunate to have three sets of families in the show and mine included. I am lucky to share the stage with my husband, Jarret Godfrey, who is playing Kyle, the sexy UPS guy, and our niece, Alyssa Coffey, who is playing Margot, one of Elle’s best friends and sorority sister. We have husbands Keith Lindersmith and Donny Graham, who are a part of the original group who helped make the Ice House into the Ice House Theater back in the mid 1970’s and have been a part of the Visalia Players for over 40 years. We also have the whole Ventura family. Our director Kelly Ventura and his wife, Shay Ventura, share the stage as Elle’s parents, and their daughter Lauren plays Elle’s rival as Vivienne Kensington.


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Q: What else can you tell us about the production? What does Ventura as director bring to the show? Is this a big cast for a Visalia production?

A: This is such a fun and high energy production, and he brings such a positive energy to the show. He is a very hands-on director and very collaborative. I love how he is on stage with us giving us guidance and direction but always tells us to bring our own variation to the character or scene. He also does an amazing job in leading such a large cast. He brings out the best in everyone.

Q: Regarding the character of Elle, you bring an interesting background to the role. She’s from Malibu, and you definitely spent your time as an L.A.-slash-California girl. How do you describe your personal take on Elle?

A: Elle is your fun California girl that I definitely can relate to. She is a perky blonde with a positive outlook on life. Elle has her own style and no matter how many times she gets beaten down she always stays true to herself. I think Elle is such a great role model for girls because even though she makes mistakes along the way she always learns from them and comes out stronger.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

A: This show creates an upbeat feel for the audience and will take them on the journey into Elle’s world and out of their reality. As a cast we have so much fun that audiences will want to be up and dancing right along with us.


 

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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