Alumnae stars in musical production of ‘Legally Blonde’

Sarah Contreras

Ohmygod, you guys!

The Tony Award-nominated musical Legally Blonde has blown into this neck of the woods, and it just happens to star NIU alumnae Christine Sherrill. Christine has made a career out of performing, appearing in plays such as Mamma Mia!, Cabaret and A Christmas Carol. The Northern Star caught up with Christine this week to talk about taking risks, coveted roles and the joys of playing Legally Blonde’s hilarious Paulette!

NORTHERN STAR: So, Christine: How did you get into show business?

CHRISTINE SHERRILL: Well, throughout college I actually majored in elementary education, but I performed with the Northern Lights. It was a vocal jazz ensemble. I started performing when I was really little and I continued it as an extracurricular thing until I graduated from college. I taught elementary school for a while, and I was performing for extra money; a director from Chicago had come to see me in something, and he cast me in my first professional show, which was Singin’ in the Rain. I took a year absence from teaching to see if I could make a living off performing and I never looked back. And that was eight years ago.

NS: Does any show have a special place in your heart?

CS: Wow, that’s a good question! I would say that it would be Singing‘ in the Rain, since it was my first professional show. I loved the role; I played Lena Lamont, and I received a nomination for it, so that’s pretty near and dear to me.

NS: What has your audition experience been like? How do you keep up your self-esteem?

CS: In terms of persevering and sticking with it… I guess what brings me self confidence is just being prepared, knowing that I did my best and just letting it go. Once the audition is over, I just kind of let it go and tell myself I did my best.

NS: How do you prepare for auditions?

CS: Typically in Chicago, you don’t really have a lot of notice when it comes to preparing material. My agent will email it to me, and I work with coaches if I am able to get in with a coach. But I think the key is really keeping myself fit and ready to go at a moments notice. I think in general it means taking care of my voice and taking care of myself physically so that I’m kind of always prepared.

NS: Do you have any Pre-show rituals?

CS: I practice yoga, and it’s been really important for me. It warms my body and sort of gets my throat opened up and ready to sing. It also calms me down and sort of centers me before I go on stage. So yeah, I would say yoga is a huge part of my pre-show ritual. Also: hydrating. I’m really careful to hydrate on show days.

NS: Are there any roles out that you would love to play?

CS: Yes! I would love to play Kate in Kiss Me, Kate, and I would LOVE to do Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.

NS: Why those roles?

CS: Well, let’s see. Adelaide is interesting because it’s a very typical role for me – it’s what I am used to playing. I feel like I’ve really explored a lot the roles that are “dumb blonde” and I’d really like to get my hands on that part. Right now I’m really enjoying finding the heart behind those “dumb blonde” roles. And Kiss Me, Kate is the exact opposite. I loved Taming of the Shrew, and so I’d love to explore the Kate role vocally.

NS: How much fun do you have playing Paulette?

CS: I was a little apprehensive at first about playing Paulette because she was originally played by Jennifer Coolidge. Everybody knows Jennifer Coolidge as this crazy sort of iconic character and comedian, and I knew there was really no replicating that. The thing I love about Paulette is that as much as her heart has been broken, and as much as she has been through … it’s interesting because in the play, she is surrounded by people of good fortune. Elle has had this misfortune of losing her boyfriend, but for the most part these people are wealthy, and have wealthy families and have grown up with privilege and that sort of thing. Paulette has not, and what is interesting to me is that even though she has not grown up in privilege, she is the person in the play that owns the most hope and the most joy. I think that’s what makes her so lovable. It’s sort of infectious, and she has them for all the right reasons. It’s just true, genuine joy and heart. Aw, Paulette!

NS: How does Legally Blonde compare with other shows you’ve done?

CS: I toured with a Broadway tour of Mamma Mia!, and Legally Blonde really reminds me of Mamma Mia! because it’s a more contemporary show and its focus is to be happy. It’s not rocket science, you know? The message is happiness and joy and love, and I sort of love that. I don’t think that everything needs to be complex and that sort of thing, if people can just leave the show feeling really great. We have people coming to the show because they love Reese Witherspoon or they loved the movie, and we also have people who come who have never seen the movie, and they all leave loving it because it makes you happy. It’s upbeat, and energetic, and it makes you happy!

NS: Do you have any post-graduation advice you’d like to share with NIU students?

CS: I sort of knew all throughout college that performing was my passion. I just knew it. But I chose something that I thought was steady and reliable and that sort of thing, instead of choosing what my heart was telling me was what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, I was really, really happy teaching, but there nothing like doing something you are really passionate about. My advice is that if you are questioning in college like, “is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?” is to take the risk on what you know you are passionate about in life. Because, it will sustain you for the rest of your life, whether your income is good or not. It was a huge risk for me to leave what I knew was a steady salary for something that people say is hit or miss. But the truth is, I think I’ve been successful at it because I just love it so much! So that’s my advice! I would have wanted someone to tell me that. Follow your passion because it will all fall into place eventually.