Cody Sullivan comes to us from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and says, “no one typically knows what that place is but it’s the home of the largest military base in the free world and also the best beach ever! It’s one of five Emerald Coast beaches with emerald colored water and sand like sugar.” Aside from being a pitchman for Ft. Walton Beach, Cody is directing the membership production of Legally Blonde Jr. set to open on Friday at Fremont Centre Theatre, produced by Young Stars Theatre. Cody has been a member for four years and this is his second time directing. Once a year, directors Jack and Gloria Bennett give their youth company members a chance to produce a full musical, giving them opportunities in directing, producing, choreography, stage managing, light and sound design; all of it is run by the kids and overseen by the Bennetts. It’s something the kids look forward to all year and this year’s show is about to come to fruition.
A professional actor for many years, 18 year old Cody caught the acting bug early on when a theatre flyer arrived in his mailbox. “I just thought it looked fun and it turns out it was really fun and I ended up doing community theatre year round.” On opening night of his first show he told his Mom he wanted to be an actor and after three more shows, she realized he was definitely not kidding.
Cut to Cody getting involved with a television class which led him to auditioning in Los Angeles every pilot season and eventually re-settling here full time when he was 16 years old. Right about that time was also when he found Young Stars Theatre and directed for the first time, their production of Cinderella. His friend, actress Casey Burke, was working with him a year earlier and told him they needed guys at YST, so he happily checked it out and says, “I was looking to get back to theater, it’s my first love, I will always go back to theatre; so I went and I loved it. We did High School Musical and here we are, maybe ten shows later, and I’m thrilled to be directing Legally Blonde Jr. for them.”
Cody says directing has been a learning experience, “directing is one thing and then directing kids is another; it’s keeping their focus, keeping them moving, which is a huge part of moving them quickly; Jack and Gloria do that so well. They are really great with their kids and that’s something I’ve learned by being here.” He says he’s a big “kid person” anyway and wants to hurry up and settle down and have children as soon as possible!
When the membership show comes around, the company members are asked what top three positions they would like to have. Cody says he asked to be the director, then lights and sound because he loves the technical side of theatre as well. “Because I’m 18, this is kind of my last hurrah so I think they were like “alright you can direct”,” Cody says modestly, and he is so excited for everyone to see what they’ve been working on. “I don’t think people realize that when they bring their kids here it’s not just about ‘oh my kid’s going to look cute up on stage’. They learn how to be professionals; they learn life skills. Jack and Gloria teach you what it’s like to be in a professional production and I think that’s rare to find because I think kids are kind of pandered to a lot; teachers often “teach down”. Jack and Gloria definitely “teach up”. They know that kids are smart.”
When asked what the challenges of Legally Blonde have been he says, “it’s so rich with possibilities, so fast paced and so sharp and such a peppy show that the choreography has to mirror that. So it has to take you on that journey without making you want to vomit(!) We don’t want it to be in your face but we want you to feel what Elle is feeling and take you on that emotional journey with her without being too overpowering.”
Cody says he was unfamiliar with the show before taking it on so he had to do a lot of studying before rehearsals began and says, “it really is an emotional show. A large part of it is comedy but it does have a very clear arc. Because of the way people perceive the show, it can be challenging to highlight the parts of it that are needed to properly tell it in the most profound way that we can.”
The director continues, “first of all the cast we have is so amazing. We have several people who are with YST for the first time who are picking things up left and right and they’re jumping in it. It’s been amazing. People are rising to the challenge and it’s wonderful. He loves the message of the show which he says is “self love. Never underestimate yourself.” And what can the audience expect? He says, “a lot of laughs. We have two amazing, wonderful women playing Elle (there are two casts) and their comedic timing is wonderful. There’s a lot of comedy and I focused on bringing out the emotional journey.”
See the results of Cody’s direction along with all the hard work of the entire membership as this fun, humorous musical that turns into a story of female empowerment, Legally Blonde Jr., opens this weekend at the Fremont.
The show opens Friday October 27th at 7pm and runs four weekends, with both evening shows and matinees, for a total of 16 performances. Fremont Centre Theatre 1000 Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena. For showtimes and ticketing,as well as more info about YST, visit www.YoungStarsTheatre.org