Hannah Marshall hasn’t had much downtime lately.
The Stowe native plays the starring role of Elle Woods in the Lyric Theatre Company production of “Legally Blonde; the Musical,” which opens at the Flynn MainStage April 9.
She’s spent the past few months rehearsing at least 15 hours each week, memorizing 19 songs, numerous dance numbers and countless lines.
“It’s definitely a marathon show,” said Marshall, who lives in Waterbury and works at the Stowe Reporter as copyeditor, web and social media manager and food writer.
This week she’s been busy promoting the show — a 5 a.m. interview with Fox 44 and NBC 22 and some local radio spots — while juggling work and final rehearsals.
You’d expect her to be dragging a bit, but Marshall, 27, is almost always smiling.
Her effervescent personality fits the part of eternally peppy sorority girl turned law student Elle Woods, in the romantic comedy musical based on the 2001 MGM movie that launched Reese Witherspoon into stardom.
“It’s the most blonde and fabulous role I can imagine,” said Marshall. “Lyric (Theatre Company) is just amazing. I just knew I wanted to be a part of this somehow.”
Road to the stage
Marshall grew up in Stowe.
A mezzo-soprano, she began singing publicly at age 3 in the choir at Stowe Community Church.
She took her first voice lessons at age 12 with Alice Kruidenier of Stowe, and later studied voice with Jill Levis of Colchester.
Her first stage role was in 1997 in a Stowe Theatre Guild production of “The Sound of Music” where she played Brigitta.
She appeared in middle and high school plays including a memorable production of “Into the Woods.”
“I was the Baker’s Wife, and I had to kiss a boy on stage,” Marshall said. “I was in sixth grade. It was the most horrifying thing I could imagine.”
She attended Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, where she performed with a select mixed vocal ensemble and was a member of the school’s contemporary dance company. After graduation, she attended the New England Culinary School where she earned a culinary arts degree.
She took a short hiatus from performing while working in restaurants in Boston, Maine and Warren, Vt.
“It’s really hard to cook professionally and do anything else,” Marshall explained.
She got back on stage in 2009, performing in two Stowe Theatre Guild shows. The following year she played Baroness Elsa Schraeder in the Guild’s production of “The Sound of Music.” Last year, she played Rose Lennox in “The Secret Garden” and was in the ensemble of Lyric’s “Les Miserables.”
Marshall knew that competition would be stiff for the role of Elle when she showed up on the first day of auditions.
“Elle is a triple threat role — singing, dancing and acting,” Marshall said. “And there are a lot of amazingly talented people in this area of Vermont.”
She had to audition solo and in a few scenes with other actors.
“We had to sing a scale, sing a song, do the acting portion, we were taught a dance, and we sang our hearts out,” Marshall said.
Marshall was called back twice to sing and read scenes with different actors before being offered the role of Elle.
Since January she has been rehearsing four days a week, from 6:45 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 12:45 to 5 p.m. on Sundays at the Lyric Theatre Company warehouse in Williston.
The 40-person cast includes two canine co stars: Joey the Chihuahua plays Bruiser and Enzo, a French bulldog, plays Rufus.
“I know they’re going to steal the show,” Marshall said. “They are wonderful.”
Joey is a rescue dog owned by Joyce Girard, who volunteers at All Breed Rescue in Williston.
“He is very sweet, and food-motivated, and quite calm for a Chihuahua.”
Of Enzo, she said, “He will absolutely steal the spotlight. He’s a ham. He can ride a longboard.”
“Legally Blonde: The Musical”
The musical follows the storyline of the movie about sorority girl Elle Woods who fights stereotypes, snobbery and scandal in pursuit of her dreams at Harvard law school.
“She’s blonde and that’s the first thing people see,” Marshall said. “But underneath all that she’s a very strong person, and finds out how to be an independent woman.”
Marshall can relate to Elle in some ways.
“When I said I worked in a restaurant, people asked, ‘Are you a waitress?’ and I would say, ‘No, I’m a professional cook.’ It’s about appearances. People aren’t always what you think they are.”
Her character also shares her optimistic outlook on life.
“Elle is always positive,” Marshall said. “As we get into show week I try to think of the positives and not get stressed.”
While she finds the singing aspect of her role relatively easy, remembering every detail of portraying Elle — from to the choreography in each scene to the props she must carry in her purse —can be challenging.
She has 12 costume changes and eight pairs of shoes, including 6-inch sparkly platform heels. The shortest costume change is just 24 seconds; the longest is 90 seconds and that’s the most time she spends offstage.
“Having the show laid out and trying to think of what you have to do next while having it look effortless is a lot to juggle,” Marshall said.
And if something goes wrong? Flubbing a line or forgetting a cue isn’t entirely unusual, according to Marshall. The trick is making sure the audience doesn’t notice, she said.
“It happens to everyone,” Marshall said. “Now we’re at the point in rehearsal where you can’t call for a line; you have to keep going.”
Marshall sings in 19 of the show’s 20 songs. One of her favorites is “What You Want,” an upbeat song in the first act.
“It’s 10 minutes long,” Marshall said. “She decides she wants to go to Harvard, takes the LSAT, and gets accepted, all in one song.”
The musical’s title song, “Legally Blonde,” is one of the most challenging songs in the show. A ballad sung as a duet in the second act, it reveals Elle’s more reflective side.
“I like doing the entire range of emotion in one show,” Marshall said.
When she was in high school, Marshall contemplated pursing a career in music, but decided against it.
“As competitive as it is here (in Vermont), it’s a million times more so”, Marshall said. “It’s awesome to be in a job now where I can do it for fun.”