Favorable verdict reached on Legally Blonde

Photo+by+Melissa+Wong

Photo by Melissa Wong

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Adorned in pink, senior Nina Leeds sang and danced her way through Harvard Law School as Elle Woods in Townsend Harris’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical on April 17 and 18. This year’s school play reproduced the popular Broadway musical from 2007, which in turn was based on the 2001 comedy film of the same name.

The plot centers on Elle Woods, a preppy, seemingly airheaded college sorority girl who follows her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (senior Ross Cimagala), to Harvard Law School in the hopes of winning him back. With her vivid pink clothing and bubbly personality, she is initially a fish out of water among the uptight, snobby Harvard students. However, by continuing to be herself, she eventually lands a coveted internship and befriends a few students. She even falls in love with teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (freshman Noah Sadik), who helps her overcome academic and emotional obstacles at Harvard. In the end, she surprises everyone when she successfully uses her “bend and snap” tactic and knowledge of hair care to dramatically expose a criminal on trial and save the innocent Brooke Wyndham (junior Rebecca West) from prison.

The scenes ranged from a comedic number about whether a lying witness was “gay or European” (he turned out to be both), to the more mellow “Chip on My Shoulder,” in which Elle learns about Emmett’s unexpected backstory and realizes the amount of effort she must invest to succeed.

Scenes were strung together with musical numbers and were often accompanied by the lively dancing and singing of Elle’s fellow sorority girls. These numbers included the well-known “Bend and Snap,” “Omigod You Guys!” and “Whipped Into Shape.”

Noah Sadik, who played Emmett, said, “The music is phenomenal, the story is charming, and the plot is comical.”

Assistant Director and English teacher Joseph Canzoneri explained why he and Director Richard Louis-Pierre made this less conventional choice. As always, they needed to choose a play with a lot of female characters, since THHS is predominantly female. The second reason was that they hadn’t performed a dance-heavy show in a while, and there were a lot of talented dancers he wanted to feature.

“[Mr. Louis-Pierre] threw out some titles of shows we had done before, like 42nd Street and Thoroughly Modern Millie and I kinda said, ‘We’ve done these already and kinda recently, let’s pick something different,’” he said.

Mr. Louis-Pierre said  Legally Blonde was “a very large show” that he felt was rightfully challenging but also a good learning experience.

Mr. Canzoneri added, “The best part is seeing the ideas materialize. It goes from nothing to an idea. It’s also really a family bonding experience with people from so many different cliques, social circles, and grades.”

Despite the anxiety that often accompanies large productions, the cast still managed to put together and form what Director Richard Louis-Pierre called, “The best that crazy has to offer.”

Some play members felt the stress of living up to a well-known musical. “I was worried that we weren’t going to be big enough or as appealing,” said senior Kevin Schneider, who performed a rapping sequence as part of his role of frat boy Grandmaster Kev.

He added, “I thought many people would compare us to the incredibly funded and professional Broadway show.”

However, he mentioned that “all of [his] worries vanished as the final few dress rehearsals took place.”

“The audience really seemed to like it,” said Mr. Canzoneri. “We were pleased with how we were able to take a show that really requires a heavy budget.”

The packed auditorium on both nights thoroughly enjoyed the performances.

“Picking something so popular definitely drew a bigger crowd,” junior Sarah DeFilippo explained.

She added, “Since Legally Blonde is such a popular movie, the audience has a connection and can see the creative ways the crew went about doing things that are easy to do in a film with a huge budget, but prove problematic for a small-scale production.”

“I think my favorite part has to be the trial, when they were examining the cabana boy and couldn’t figure out if he was gay or European…and then he was both,” she added. “That scene was just great humor.”

“[The play] made me love the movie even more,” said junior Ashley Sealy.

To prepare for the two performances, the cast stayed late almost every day after school perfecting their roles.

This was a very demanding job for most of them, but as Mr. Canzoneri put it: “It is a labor of love.”

Mr. Louis-Pierre summed up the ideas and motivation behind the play, saying, “It’s a chance for students to express themselves creatively and become someone else, someone not in their character.  It’s also a wonderful venue for true teamwork.”

The show opened the same way it closed: to a spirited burst of music. Cast and crew members specifically enjoyed the liveliness of the music.

Noah commented on the show’s music and style, saying, “You get to be really creative and you get to build your character. And the songs are really fun and spirited and catchy.”

Sophomore Daniell Morales, who played the villainous Professor Callahan (who kisses Elle only to get slapped), agreed, saying,“I found [Legally Blonde] to be a difficult yet enticing play, a more modern twist than last year. It was fun with a modern, everyday-type of character. There are people like this out there somewhere. And overall, it’s more vibrant and realistic.”

Kevin especially enjoyed learning the dance to “Bend and Snap,” saying it “was so much fun to learn, and it’s so catchy.”

However, there were some bumps along the way.

“We casted a lot of dancers and for the most part the dances were strong; they could have used a little cleaning up,” said Mr. Canzoneri.

He added, “I think the script is a little funnier than perhaps we were able to bring out, but… when you’re doing a musical there’s always a list of priorities. The first is the vocals…the second thing is the dances, and the last thing is the script.”

He added that he would’ve liked a few more rehearsals to “bring out the comedy in the script.”

Despite the time constraints, newer theatrical terrain and having to coordinate a total of 33 cast members, he was pleased with the results.

“This was the first time since I’ve been here [that we’ve ever] had the entire cast together for one rehearsal…there was always someone who had a commitment,” he explained.

“That gets really frustrating. Considering all of those obstacles, I’m thrilled with the way things turned out.”

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