SHORELINE — When the curtain goes up for “Legally Blonde, The Musical,” 15-year-old Noah Sonenstein will leave his real-life persona backstage and make an entrance as Professor Callahan, the pompous, manipulative law professor.
While this is not a role that Sonenstein has ever played before, he says, “it’s fun to play a serious character, on occasion. Being serious shows a new perspective on what you can do with a character.”
“A lot of the time when you’re playing a character you have to get into that person’s head,” the Madison resident says. “It’s sort of like you have to blind everything about yourself that you know, look into the script, see how the character’s written and then interpret that into a form of the character that’s believable.”
Sonenstein joins 25 other thespians who have been dancing and singing all summer long for Wagner Iovanno Studio Performances’ fun, upbeat production of “Legally Blonde, The Musical.”
Showtimes are Friday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m., Saturday, August 17 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, August 18 at 2 p.m. at Andrews Memorial Auditorium, 54 East Main St., Clinton.
Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and children 9-years-old and younger. Tickets at the performance are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and children, nine-years-old and younger. Visit tututix.com/wispsing or 855-222-2849.
The award-winning musical follows the transformation of sorority girl Elle Woods, whose life is turned upside down when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law School. Determined to get him back, Elle charms her way into the prestigious law school. While there, she struggles with peers, professors and her ex. With the support of some new friends, though, she quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world.
The nonprofit, pre-professional theater company, WISP, spans the shoreline, rehearsing at Old Saybrook’s First Church of Christ, Branford’s Dance Unlimited and East Haven’s Wagner Iovanna Studio Productions.
The cast, ranging in age from 11 to 16 years old, has had rehearsals four or five times a week and will continue right up until dress rehearsals the day before the show opens.
Karen Wagner-Iovanna and her husband, Robert Iovanna, created WISP to train young actors and actresses for a future on stage and in front of the camera.
“We wanted to create a platform with that type of training where we could help people who want that to have the opportunities and get the necessary training within the rehearsal process,” Wagner-Iovanna said. “We treat them like you’re treated on Broadway.
“Since then, just doing professional theater and performing, I found that I enjoyed developing it more. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, because I was making a living performing, but I just like developing talent more.”
Since its inception in 2017, WISP has produced “Bah, Humbug! A Christmas Musical,” “13 The Musical” and “Grease School Edition.”
“Legally Blonde, The Musical,” was chosen because it is “fun, quirky with great music and choreography,” Wagner-Iovanna says.
“There are tons of fun character roles,” the East Haven resident says. “Most importantly, the main character Elle Woods goes through a transformation from a needy girlfriend to an independent, powerful woman. Never once did she sacrifice her integrity. She worked her butt off and found out that her mind is what really made her special, not her beautiful looks. Beauty is more than skin deep.”
Wagner-Iovanna had her first professional role when she was 15 years old and has been teaching voice for over 25 years. Her husband, Robert Iovanna, is a classical tenor and an appoggio master vocal style teacher. The two continue to do cabarets all over the country.
Iovanno is also known in Branford as Branford Police Department Officer Robert Iovanno.
WISP is truly a family affair.
Wagner-Iovanna’s father, Branford resident Alan Wagner, is alongside the husband and wife team directing the performances, and the couple’s daughter, 5-year-old Ruby, is an active member of all the performances.
In choosing the productions, Wagner-Iovanna looks to her actors and actresses for ideas, what interests them and what will help them grow as budding thespians.
“We look at the kind of music we want to teach them, we look at what’s going to help them learn and grow,” Wagner-Iovanna says.
Focusing on character development is a large part of WISP’s training.
“We work hard at developing a character, so when they go on stage, they believe the character that they’re playing,” Alan Wagner says. “They’re not playing it anymore; they are the character and if you don’t do that well the audience will never believe the character.”
For Allison Bradshaw, developing the lead character, Elle, “is really fun.”
“I just love her, in general,” the 14-year-old Southington resident says. “Her energy. Her vibe. I love how resilient she is and it shows so many times throughout the show when she could fall apart and move back to her home, but she doesn’t, she stays there and she pulls through and it’s such a good message and she’s so great.”
Wagner-Iovanna tears up when she talks about working with these talented actors and actresses who are devoted to the art of performing.
“I love them like they are my own,” she says. “I would do anything for them and everything they ask for; I try to make happen. What’s important, I think, out of this whole experience, is that these kids, no matter what skill level that they’re at they find a place like this, where they belong.”