By Michael Davidson
Baylor Theatre is thinking pink for its first main-stage production of the new school year with the popular musical comedy “Legally Blonde.” The play is proving to be a favorite with audiences and has sold out every performance. For one cast member in particular, this show is a big opportunity.
The iconic lead role Elle Woods, a bubbly, California sorority girl turned Harvard Law student, is played by Sarah Beard, a Gulf Breeze, Fla., senior and longtime participant in Baylor’s theater department.
“I remember being 10 years old and seeing the movie for the first time and loving Elle and wanting to be her,” Beard said. “Then, when the musical came out when I was in ninth grade, I realized this was possible and that maybe I could actually be Elle one day.”
Eight years later, this possibility became a reality when Beard was assigned the lead role in Baylor’s main-stage performance of the play.
Growing up in Florida, Beard actively participated in theater productions throughout her childhood, often incorporating one of her other favorite hobbies: singing. Although she has acted in many lead roles throughout her theater career, for Beard, playing Elle Woods in this Tony Award nominated musical is a huge dream now becoming reality.
Most theater productions include a two-step try-out process. First, a large group of actors performs preliminary auditions. The director then narrows down that group and only calls back a select number to try out again.
However, Stan Denman, chairman of the theater department and director of the musical, said Beard was so fit for the role of Elle Woods that she was awarded the part after only the preliminary trials.
“She nailed the part so far above anybody else.” Denman said. “She was cast immediately. There was no need for a call-back.”
Beard’s success in Baylor’s world of theater has not come without hard work, perseverance and even disappointment.
Both Beard and Denman recalled a story from her first year of working in the department. After auditioning as a freshman for a lead role, for which she was not cast, Beard said she was devastated. Despite this loss, Beard nonetheless took criticism maturely, channeled frustration into practice and, as she put it, “went from the crying, little freshman theater girl to, now, Elle Woods.”
“Sarah is a terrific success story as far as her career here at Baylor,” Denman said. “She will always be someone that I will use as an example of somebody who has gone from great disappointment, to working their tail off, to then succeeding. I am very proud of her.”
After graduation in December, Beard plans to move to Dallas and hopes to work as both an actor and director for a few years. However, this step is only in preparation for her ultimate goal of moving to New York City and working in its renowned theater scene. But before she goes, Beard will have to take the stage here in Waco one last time.
It is only fitting that Beard’s last performance at Baylor’s famed Jones Theatre is her dream role, an experience that she can only describe as moving.
“This is biggest part I’ve ever had in my life,” said Beard. “On the last night of the show, after it’s over and we are all bowing, I know I will be emotional. I feel as if I’m ending my time here on such a positive note. I’m going out with a bang.”