Ali Calder smiles as she recalls that when she came home to Newcastle recently for her 21st birthday her mother pulled out a spandex chicken costume she'd worn on stage as a child.
David Harris, sitting next to her, laughs sympathetically at the reference.
At his 21st birthday party, his drama teacher at Rutherford High School presented him with the Superman-style costume he'd worn as a year 8 student playing the title character in a school musical, Man of Steel.
Two years ago he wore it on stage again when he performed his one-man show, 'Til the Night is Gone, in Newcastle's Civic Playhouse.
He'd first staged the show, named after his initial song album, at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival three months earlier, but without the flying-hero song and costume.
But he felt it was a must when he came back to perform in the Hunter for the first time in 14 years and the audiences who packed the theatre loved the number.
Harris and Calder are playing key roles in the Australian premiere production of the musical Legally Blonde, which began previews at Sydney's Lyric Theatre yesterday and has its premiere on October 4.
While they are both from the Hunter, they didn't know each other before rehearsals for the show began in early August.
Harris did the Higher School Certificate in 1993 but by 1997 was living in Sydney where he took part in workshops developing a musical about Australian singer Peter Allen. The musical, The Boy from Oz, was an instant hit when it opened the following year and Harris spent 18 months touring with the show and switching between three key supporting roles that he had initially understudied.
He hasn't looked back since, with leads in musicals including Miss Saigon ( which won him a Helpmann Award nomination), and is now a leading musical theatre performer.
In the 18 months before he joined the Legally Blonde company he toured as the dashing Prince Fiyero in the Australian production of Wicked, performing in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, then Asian cities Singapore and Seoul (and winning a second Helpmann nomination).
Calder moved to Sydney immediately after doing the HSC in 2009 to play a role in the Australian premiere production of the musical Spring Awakening, which looks at teenagers developing sexual drives in a rural community and receiving no advice or support from parents. She was one of 15 young actors selected from 1200 applicants for roles and was 18 when the Sydney Theatre Company production opened in January, 2010.
In the two years since, Calder studied contemporary jazz performance at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney ("jazz was my style and I didn't do any while rehearsing and performing Spring Awakening," she says), auditioning for Legally Blonde while still at the institute.
Legally Blonde is a musical adaptation of a 2001 hit film comedy of the same name that starred Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a blonde college sorority queen who is dumped by her boyfriend, Warner, for someone of a more serious nature.
Elle follows him to the law school at Harvard University, determined to get him back. In her dealings with fellow students and lecturers she learns that being smart can bring greater rewards than a pretty face.
Legally Blonde ran for 18 months on Broadway after its April 2007 premiere, and the London production, which opened in January, 2010, did even better. It ran for 27 months and won the 2011 Olivier Award for best new musical.
The Australian production's cast includes Lucy Durack as Elle Woods and Rob Mills as Warner. Harris plays Emmett, a legal studies teaching assistant at Harvard who helps Elle. Calder is Vivienne Kensington, the no-nonsense woman who steals Warner away from Elle.
Harris auditioned for Legally Blonde while appearing in Wicked in Adelaide 15 months ago.
The Legally Blonde producers flew him to Melbourne on a Monday (the Wicked cast's rest day) to film an audition for Jerry Mitchell, the Broadway production's director and choreographer, who was signed to come to Australia to stage the local production.
Harris had decided to audition for the role of Emmett, seeing the character as the one he was most suited to play.
Within days of returning to Adelaide, he received a phone call from the audition team. The visual quality of the video wasn't very good, they explained, so they were sending a team from Melbourne to reshoot the audition.
That, it turned out, was a good omen.
"It was one of the swiftest and least painful audition processes I've been through," Harris says.
As a virtual newcomer to professional theatre, Calder was called back to audition again and again.
She initially auditioned for a smaller role than Vivienne, a law school student called Enid who is a proud lesbian. She knew while auditioning that the actress playing Enid would also be the understudy for Vivienne.
"Right up to the last audition I was trying out for Enid. And then I found out that I'd got Vivienne," she notes with a mixture of pride and lingering surprise. "I hadn't even considered that someone like me would be cast as one of the main characters."
When Calder and Harris auditioned for Legally Blonde, neither had seen the show.
Calder listened to the Broadway cast recording and was so taken with what she calls "the clever score" that she decided to audition.
"It just came out of the blue," she says.
Harris did get to see the show during a four-week break in May between the Singapore and Seoul seasons of Wicked. While on a whirlwind holiday to London, Montreal and New York, he caught a touring British production of Legally Blonde near London.
He got to talk with the cast before the performance, but it was the audience reaction that had him open-mouthed.
"They were behind it from the time the curtain went up, making an awed 'woo!' sound as that happened," he explains.
If Calder's Vivienne is the show's bad girl, suggesting that law lecturer Professor Callahan (Cameron Daddo) should kick the under-prepared Elle out of the class, Harris's Emmett is very much an underdog.
"He works hard and is not materialistic," Harris notes.
Harris says that he likes to play a psychologically damaged character, pointing to Richo, a violent surfer he essayed in a 1996 production by Newcastle's Freewheels Theatre of Nick Enright's drama Blackrock.
And that raises an interesting point about the theatrical work of both Harris and Calder in their Newcastle years.
Apart from school productions, their work in musicals was limited.
Harris appeared in an Opera Hunter production of Les Miserables in 1994, which he credits with getting him his first professional gig with Freewheels, and in a Metropolitan Players' staging of Grease in 1995.
Calder likewise was in just two public musicals: Opera Hunter's 2007 Cats, and Pantseat's 2009 Snoopy. She was also a backing singer with groups such as Ultra Swing Lounge.
Both admit that they have had no experience with lawyers and legal training. Calder was offered a place in a law degree course at the University of Canberra on the basis of her HSC results, but said she was already cast in Spring Awakening when students were asked to submit their university preferences before the HSC.
She didn't imagine that two years later she would be having a very different and decidedly musical relationship with legal studies.
Legally Blonde is expected to play at the Lyric Theatre until December. Tickets: $75.90 to $139.90. Bookings: 1300 795 267 or ticketmaster.com.au.