dr martens high heels Burnaby teacher in the spotlight for Legally Blonde
Stanley is a French immersion teacher at cole Inman Elementary in Burnaby, taking a break for an interview while her Grade 3 students dash out for recess. When she’s not in the classroom, these days she’s likely to be found on stage getting ready for Align Entertainment’s production of Legally Blonde, which opens at the Michael J. Fox Theatre Feb. 2.
The musical is a stage adaptation of the Amanda Brown novel, best known for the movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods the Delta Nu sorority girl who decides to follow her ex boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, to Harvard law school after he decides she’s not “serious” enough for him. Naturally, beauty and brains win the day as Elle proves that pink just may be the new black with plenty of singing, dancing and courtroom antics along the way.
You’ll find Stanley in a number of roles as the lead character Elle Woods’ mom, as Whitney (friend to the female antagonist, Vivienne), as a Harvard student, and as a snooty salesperson. Not to mention part of the Whipped Into Shape dance number that involves complex choreography and skipping ropes.
“I’m at the ‘Oh no, I don’t know if I can do this’ stage,” she says with a laugh, noting she feels the fact that she’s almost 40 compared to some of the 20 somethings in the cast when they’re all going hard in the dance routines. “But I always do.”
Theatre has long been part of life for Stanley, who originally got her degree in theatre back in the early 2000s. But “life happens,” as she says, and she ended up becoming a teacher.
“I’ve been doing theatre all along, but teaching became a priority,” she says. Along the way she also had two children of her own, now ages seven and 10.
After she had a hip replacement, stemming from a birth defect, in 2013, it marked a bit of a renaissance in her performing career. Align Entertainment formed that year and staged its first show, Shrek The Musical,
which was a big success. When Stanley’s hip replacement turned out to be hugely successful and allowed her to return to dancing, she was enticed by the idea of taking part in the new company’s next show.
The next year, she auditioned for a part in The Addams Family.
“I just went out on a limb,” she says. “I was a little rusty.”
She remembers being more nervous and trying hard to impress everyone that year; she was green and didn’t know members of the theatre community well. But it didn’t take long for her to realize she’d found a new home.
The way director Chad Matchette and his Align co founder Patti Volk run the company with an emphasis on welcoming and including everyone and ensuring that productions are fun and upbeat makes it feel like a family, Stanley says. So much so that, even though she was seriously considering taking a break from the productions this year because life as a mom and teacher was already busy enough well, she just couldn’t pull herself away.
“People will say, ‘I don’t know how you do it,'” she says, of balancing her life as a teacher and a mother with her performing work. “I don’t know either.”
What she does know is that performing with Align, even when it means long rehearsals at the end of a work day, always gives her energy.
“This doesn’t feel like hard work,” she says.
She also loves Align Entertainment’s focus on producing high quality musicals that are family friendly, with positive messages for all ages.
“I love that I can invite my students,” she says. “If one student comes to see it and it changes life for them if it inspires them in some way, then I’ve done my job.”
The fact that Align Entertainment’s casts are always full of high powered talent with many emerging, up and coming professional performers who are working to make a career in musical theatre adds even more value to the theatre experience.
This year’s stars, for instance, include Stuart Barkley (Warner Huntington III), whose credits include roles with Arts Club Theatre and Theatre Under the Stars; Victor Hunter (Emmett), who has appeared with TUTS and regularly lends his voice to Disney and Lucasfilm productions; and Julia Ullrich (Elle Woods), who has appeared with Fighting Chance Productions and Royal City Musical Theatre.
Wrap all that talent together in a package with ticket prices that start as low as $15, and you have a way for theatre loving families to enjoy a night out without a trip to Vancouver,
and without running up a huge credit card bill.