By Jessica Groover
When Tally Sessions graduated from Central Cabarrus High School in 1993, he was on his way to UNC-Chapel Hill with a teaching fellowship.
Now, almost 16 years later, the 34-year-old will be on stage in Charlotte in the Broadway production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”
Sessions has been on tour with the show, based on the 2001 film, since September 2008.
The show is about a sorority girl, Elle Woods, who is dumped by her boyfriend for someone more serious.
Elle then decides to follow him to law school at Harvard University.
The rest of the story follows Elle trying to prove herself once she is accepted at Harvard and becomes a top student in her class.
In the show, Sessions currently plays Aaron, a character he describes as a really pompous law student. Sessions is also the understudy for the role of Emmett, a graduate of Harvard Law and the lead male character.
When the show comes to Charlotte next week, he will play Emmett for the first time in the Wednesday night production.
His performances next week will also be the first time most of his family and friends will see him in the musical. Sessions’s mother lives in Cabarrus County, and his brother lives in Charlotte.
As Sessions was growing up, his mother, who used to be a drama teacher at Garinger High School, gave him some of his first stage time. Sessions was also in a middle school play and two productions at Central Cabarrus, “Ten Little Indians,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”
“I was active (in theatre) my junior and senior year, but it was not something I thought I’d do for a living,” Sessions said.
During his sophomore year of college, Sessions began doing college theatre and really began to focus on it in his junior year. Around that time, people began to compliment Sessions and suggest he switch from education to theatre.
“Tally always did marvelous work in undergraduate productions,” said Ray Dooley, professor in the department of dramatic art at Chapel Hill. “Tally has not only a superb talent, but a generous spirit that comes across whenever he is on stage.”
Sessions changed his major and was in 15 plays in college before graduating.
In the fall of 1998, he moved to New York City to find more job opportunities. After eight months of auditioning, he began landing roles.
“I’ve been able to make a decent living doing what I love to do,” Sessions said.
Sessions has worked with several regional theaters on the east coast and been a part of several off-Broadway shows.
His first Broadway national tour was in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in 2007. “Legally Blonde: The Musical” is Sessions’ second Broadway tour.
Before appearing in the musical, Sessions had seen the movie once. Now that he is in the show, Sessions has been surprised by the fan base for it.
“This is probably the show that has the biggest following of any shows I’ve done,” Sessions said. “The audience goes crazy for it, and the reaction is amazing.”
Even though the plot of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” is funny and Sessions said people are sometimes quick to dismiss it as pop theater, he has noticed that Elle’s story and triumph have a huge impact on the audience.
“What surprised me is how affected people are by it,” Sessions said. “People get such a good feeling from it.”
The positive feeling and huge following are what Sessions credits for the show’s success despite the economy having a toll on other Broadway shows.
“We’ve been lucky,” Sessions said. “Our audiences have been pretty packed.”
In fact, the musical is already planning shows for its second year on tour. Sessions said he will stay on as long as he can, but for now, he is enjoying visiting cities around the country and looks forward to going to Bojangles when he returns to Cabarrus County.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” will be at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte from April 21-26.
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152