ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: How Lena Hall Kept Dancing, Even After She Was Hurt Onstage

By Seth Rudetsky
17 Jun 2014

Lena Hall's publicity shot from "Legally Blonde: The Search For The Next Elle Woods"
Photo by Justin Borucki/MTV

I had new Tony Award winner Lena Hall at "Seth's Broadway Chatterbox," and she was adorable. I first met Lena when she was still Celina Carvajal, on MTV's "Legally Blonde: The Search For The Next Elle Woods." She was one of the ladies vying to replace Laura Bell Bundy. Celina (I still have to call her that!) told me that she had tried out for the Broadway show but didn't fit into any role perfectly. Jerry Mitchell had asked her to come to the reality show auditions, and she thought it would be fun. It actually was fun, but Celina and I were both irritated with how the show was edited. For instance, one week she complained to one of the producers about how the contestants weren't being fed. She got really emotional, started crying and said "It's just not fair!" In that weeks' episode, she performed and got some negative feedback. Right after she was criticized they showed a clip of her crying and saying "It's just not fair!" That's right. They used her food outrage to make her look like she can't take criticism! She comes from the world of dance, she's completely used to being criticized! Speaking of criticizing, MTV also asked me to make weekly vlogs deconstructing each episode. Here's the week where I bust Celina for cracking... while talking! 

Celina told us that she grew up in San Francisco with a choreographer dad and ballerina mom. She started dancing at a very young age but around age 12, she quit her journey to be a prima ballerina and started doing musical theatre. She saw Cats and loved it and right after she graduated high school, her friend told her there was a Cats open call happening and she should get there immediately. Celina was working in a kid's store but left early and went to the audition. She danced for hours and sang three songs but heard nothing for months!

Then they called her house and asked what she was up to. Celina thought she should sound really busy so she told them was about to start community college and she was working at a kid's store. They thanked her and that was that. She was then devastated because she thought she said the wrong thing. Ah! Should she have sounded like she had nothing going on? What do they want in their Cats? Thankfully, they soon called her in her kid's store and offered her the Cats national tour, understudying four cats!

Hall as Demeter

She couldn't believe how much money she was going to get, and when she hung up, she started crying. Celina had to tell somebody the good news, so she ran to a nearby store at the mall and told her sister's boyfriend, who worked there. As she ran, the crying started to turn to hysterical, loud, aggressive sobbing. When she arrived at the store, her sister's boyfriend saw her, panicked and assumed someone had just died. When he asked what was wrong, she finally shrieked, "Cats called!!!!"

Celina said she then had four days to "become an adult." She had never lived away from home and didn't have a passport, driver's license or bank account. But she got herself together and flew to St. Louis to begin learning the various cats. She went on for some of the cats she covered and before she learned all of the roles, they offered her the permanent part of Demeter. Thus began one of the most horrifying onstage mishaps I know of: Celina went out to celebrate getting the role and one of her treats was getting fabulous nails. These were the kind that were superglued to your actual nails.

That night, she was in the section of the show where she tears the coat off of McCavity and an understudy was on for the role. It was a little different than normal and her hand got caught in the coat. He then twisted and turned and suddenly two of her nails were ripped off. Not just the fake ones. The real ones, too! Like I said, she was trained as a dancer, so she was used to "the-show-must-go-on-through-horrible-pain" and she actually finished the number. She then left the stage and passed out. 'Natch!