'Legally Blonde' brings energy to Rex Putnam High School stage
"Legally Blonde," starring Reese Witherspoon, inspired the Broadway debut of "Legally Blonde The Musical," and now that show comes to Oak Grove in a production opening on Feb. 16 at Rex Putnam High School.
The exuberant musical is a collaboration between New Century Players, a local community theater group, and the high school. It is directed by Kelley Marchant, drama teacher at RPHS and artistic director of NCP.
Featuring 22 different sets, numerous costume changes and more than 50 cast, crew and musicians, the musical also showcases the antics of two adorable dogs that could steal the show.
The story is based on the novel "Legally Blonde," by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name. The musical tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner.
"She discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial," Marchant said. "Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle Woods, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations while staying true to herself."
Marchant noted that the community theater group has collaborated with the high school every other year for the past 12 years, including a production of "Romeo and Juliet" two years ago.
"This particular musical lent itself well to many adult roles, but allowing some of the key roles, including the lead, to be played by high school students," Marchant said.
Calling the show a "technical beast," Marchant noted that the large number of sets and set changes have been quite the challenge in material, production and design.
But as the show came together, she said that it has been fun to see the students and adults supporting each other through the process.
"Our head secretary and our chemistry teacher are in the show, along with several other adults, including parents and professional actors," Marchant said.
Her favorite scene "is the one where Elle realizes how much she has to offer and she doesn't have to live up to a facade others create for her," she said.
"In this current political climate, I'm all over the women taking the lead and recognizing their strengths and not hiding in the shadows of their male counterparts, or the stereotypes our society loves to create because of how we look or choose to dress," Marchant said.
Dirk Foley, last seen in NCP's fall production of "I Do, I Do," plays the role of Professor Callahan in the show.
His character "is an experienced, high-profile trial lawyer [and] a partner in a lucrative law practice," Foley said.
"His drive for money and 'the win' overshadows both his humanity and his personal ethics," he said.
In act two of the musical, there is a scene where Callahan behaves inappropriately towards Elle, who is one of his students.
"That scene creeps me out, as it is manipulative and sexist," Foley said.
His character's actions almost deter Elle, "but ultimately propel her to realize her potential and succeed. Karma ultimately takes its toll on Callahan," he added.
Character 'values sisterhood'
Elle is played by RPHS senior Kate Potter, who said her character is "very kind hearted and values sisterhood above all else."
Elle is "a trustworthy friend, but her ability to trust others is her downfall. But that also allows her to build herself back up," Potter said.
She is in almost every scene during the course of the musical and has some lightening quick costume changes.
How does she balance a huge role and school?
"I pride myself on my good grades, and I prioritize what I want to achieve in high school. It is really important to include theater in my life," Potter said.
The show is so much fun, she said, adding that it is "really heavy in singing and dancing, so it incorporates all my favorite things."
Marchant noted that the musical is appropriate for high school students and older; there is some mature content in the play, but that will likely be over the heads of younger students.
"If people are looking for a fun couple of hours to get away from it all and enjoy a laugh or two, they should come check it out," she added.
"This show is high energy and charming from beginning to end. [Audiences] will love our talented leads and the collaboration of adults and youth," Foley said.
"I have been very impressed with the talent and professionalism of the Putnam students. They bring amazing energy and enthusiasm."
He added, "I'm very excited to have been a part of this and am grateful for the opportunity. Coming from a two-person show, it has been wonderful to be on stage with such a large group of talented actors."
Blondes do have more fun!
What: The New Century Players and Rex Putnam High School present "Legally Blonde The Musical"
When: Opening at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and continuing at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 17, 22, 23 and 24 and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 and 25
Where: Rex Putnam Main Stage, 4950 S.E. Roethe Road, Oak Grove
Tickets: General admission $15, students $10, seniors $12. To buy tickets, visit newcenturyplayers.org or call 503-535-5870, ext. 38600.