Alumna Lea Sevola graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ithaca College. As a nationally recognized leader in performing arts education, Lea had the opportunity to learn in an intensive, immersive and performance-oriented environment that further enhanced her acting, singing and dancing talent. Over the course of her professional career, she has had the opportunity to perform in more than a dozen productions in both leading and supporting roles at the regional and national level. Most recently, Lea was selected to play the iconic role of Vivienne Kensington in the National Tour of Legally Blonde the Musical.
Lea developed an interest in the performing arts at a young age and was often found singing around her childhood home. Her family would take her to music together classes where she would sing and play instruments. These experiences were very influential in helping her to discover her passion for performance. Her first major exposure to musical theater was at the Broadway production of the Lion King when she was six years old. Lea vividly remembers the excitement she felt seeing the performers onstage and recalls turning to her mother at intermission with disappointment saying “is it really over?” She was delighted that there would be a second Act of the show and at the end of the performance she turned to her family and said emphatically that she wanted to become an actress. With the support of her parents, from that day on Lea attended auditions, took voice lessons and seized every possible opportunity she could to experience the performing arts.
Lea participated in numerous community theater productions as well as the shows at Randolph Middle School and Randolph High School. In the third grade, she had her first performance at Brundage Park Playhouse where she was cast in several small roles in Charlotte’s Web. Lea enjoyed being able to put together the costumes for the various parts she had in the show such as a baby spider. When she was backstage, she was also able to learn about all of the roles that are involved with organizing a theatrical experience. At Randolph Middle School, she recalls being so excited by the number of students involved in the productions and the sense of community that they had together at play practice. “I think about the Randolph Middle School musicals and they were giant. There were so many people in those shows, and I had never had the opportunity to work with so many people. I have such positive memories of play practice and it was just the best. All of my closest friends were in the musicals and they are still my best friends to this day. It’s such a unique experience being a theater kid in public school and I truly had such a positive experience. By the time I got to high school, I was cast in the female leading role as a freshman in the musical Man of La Mancha. Being cast in a leading role my first year of high school was both inspiring and motivating.”
In addition to all of these extracurricular experiences, as a high school student, she had the opportunity to participate in the dual enrollment and Option II program at County College of Morris (CCM). While still enrolled as a full-time high school student, she was able to explore courses like musical theater outside of the typical school day at CCM which provided her with life changing perspective. During her senior year, she was able to fully immerse herself in the college’s offerings which greatly added value to her success post-graduation. The experience deepened her knowledge and appreciation of musical theater while also preparing her for her next step in Ithaca College’s competitive B.F.A. Musical Theatre program.
In regional theater productions, Lea has had quite the extensive resume having performed in iconic shows such as Mamma Mia, Hamlet, Annie, Schoolhouse Rock: Live, a Midsummer Night’s Dream and many others. When reflecting back on those experiences, she recalls her leading role as Catherine in a show called A View from the Bridge at Hope Summer Repertory Theater as being a very significant milestone in her professional career. “Performing as Catherine in a View from the Bridge was a rather surreal experience. It was one of my first paid jobs as an actress and I was playing a lead which was very inspiring. For me, it was the first time I was truly proud of the work that I had done. Every night when I took a bow and had the chance to look out at the audience, I was reassured that this was and is the work that I want to be doing. I felt in that moment that I could continue to develop as a performer and that I could dedicate my life to honing my craft. It was a magical realization that dreams can and do come true with hard work,” Lea said.
As a performer, Lea is a classically trained soprano with multiple talents she has acquired through her various experiences in supporting and leading roles. However, at the same time, Lea believes that she has a greater calling as an actress. She strives to “use her art to give a voice to the voiceless and to encourage compassion in the world.” This includes intentionally seeking roles where she may be able to use a particular character to enact change in the lives of others. This mission has led her to take on roles that many other actresses may have been afraid to pursue. Her role as Wonder Woman in the DC Justice League Tour in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Bahrain was an opportunity for her to not only expand upon her already extensive portfolio of work, but to also symbolically represent a strong, independent woman in a region that culturally has different customs, attitudes and beliefs about the rights and visibility of women. “The opportunity to perform as Wonder Woman in the middle east was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had and something that I am so grateful for. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience that challenged me as an actress and made me view myself and the role I could play as an actress differently. Just one year prior to performing in this show, women were not even allowed to be on stage in Saudi Arabia and certainly not with other men. While we still respectfully adhered to the cultural customs of the region, my costume as an example was modified, both myself and our cast felt like we were sending a symbolic message about women’s rights which was very moving. We were able to provide representation in a place that historically had none,” Lea said. “I remember looking out into the audience and seeing young girls watching me as Wonder Woman which was probably a unique experience for them. I was able to see first-hand the impact it was having on all of the women in the audience as well which looking back on it now was rather surreal. As an actress in the United States, I would not be able to even conceive not having the right to perform on stage whenever I want. Having this experience where I was literally legally not allowed to perform was both shocking while at the same time very humbling. I developed such a deeper appreciation for the privilege that I have to be able to pursue my chosen profession because it’s not possible for people everywhere in the world. As we continued on our amazing tour to Lebanon, Egypt and Bahrain, it kept sticking in the back of my mind that theater can and does play a significant role in shaping our world. Having the opportunity to be a part of such an influential profession is something I am very thankful and proud to be a part of.”
Lea has asked herself for the past several years what kind of artist she wants to be and what value she wants to add to her profession. Like Wonder Woman, she continues to pursue roles where she can embody “strong, emotionally intelligent and independent women.” From her perspective, she feels that her career is heading in a direction where the roles she is receiving align with who she desires to be professionally as well as who she wants to be personally. In her latest role as Vivienne Kensington in the Legally Blonde National Tour, Lea is grateful for the opportunity to play a character who helps to break down different stereotypes about women.
“Legally Blonde is a musical about female empowerment and I get to play a character that goes on this incredible journey of self-discovery which leads to her not only supporting other women, but also learning how to lift herself up in the process. For those who have seen the movie, it’s easy to think of Vivienne as the mean girl and a character that shouldn’t be liked. The character operates that way as Elle’s antagonist, but from my interpretation of the character I wanted her to be portrayed in a way where she isn’t being mean for the sake of being mean. I wanted to add dimension and understanding to who she is as a person which lays the groundwork for her transformation in the second act where she both learns from and aligns with Elle. I found that tapping into the human side of Vivienne was my way in to really help our audiences empathize and relate with this character. It has also made playing her every night that much more enjoyable. Foundationally, we are using this show to break down stereotypes of women being pitted against other women which I think is a very important message,” Lea said. “Theater is so important in society because it’s an opportunity for audience members to watch humanity being represented and brought to life on stage. It’s a chance for people to be observers of humanity in a way that makes us more empathetic whether we are watching the stories of people like us unfold or those of others that differ from us. With this show in particular, I have the privilege to recap the message essentially in one of my lines by saying that being true to yourself never goes out of style. I get to share with the audience that who they are is enough and that they don’t need to change who they are which is a really powerful thing. I hope audiences leave our show recognizing that the only way we can truly be happy and successful in life is by bringing those around us higher. We have to support one another and by doing so, we also support ourselves.”
We are incredibly proud of Lea’s success and wish her well as she continues her tour across the country. The National Tour of Legally Blonde will be performed in New Brunswick, New Jersey at the State Theatre on April 28, 29 and 30. To see Lea Sevola in her role, you can order tickets at:
Photo Credit: Jessica Osber Photography