Harvard Law School, pink costumes and a blonde wig breezed onto the Mainstage of the Lied Education for the Arts this Wednesday. These three things and more create the major stage production of “Legally Blonde” for the Fine and Performing Arts spring musical.
The cast has been in rehearsal since January, and the journey hasn’t exactly been smooth-sailing. In fact, this show wasn’t always on the radar for Fine and Performing Arts staff.
“We started with Cinderella. We were set to go with it and they pulled the rights from us,” said director Amy Lane. “We knew we wanted a play that had featured roles for women. So, when we lost Cinderella, we searched and we searched and we searched. We came up with Legally Blonde because it has the same kind of things we were looking for. We just felt it really suited a university environment.”
The musical mirrors the original 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon in which a young woman follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in a gamble to win him back. Along the way, however, she discovers her true passion for law and her own identity. However, unlike the film version, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” features solo numbers, even more zany characters than the film and major dance breaks.
The latter of those became a defining feature for this production.
“It really is half choreography. I’m working with Megan Torbert, our choreographer, who just graduated in December,” said Lane. “She’s really my partner in this. Half of the work on the stage belongs to her.”
Torbert herself noted the challenges she faced choreographing this show.
“Almost every song has some kind of movement if not a two-minute dance break,” said Torbert. “So I spent a lot of time in the dance studio by myself figuring out what works and just because it works for me doesn’t mean it works for having 25 bodies on stage at one time.”
However, Torbert didn’t just handle the work off-stage. She also played the role of Brooke Windham within the production.
She suggested that underclassmen push themselves in their experiences in college.
“There’s no harm in trying. You never know what you’re good at until you give it a shot. I didn’t think I would be doing musical theater in college and now I don’t think I could give it up.”
Cast members with more experience in musical theatre noted that there was something special within this process too.
“Everyone [in the cast] is so genuine and authentic. It is one of the most positive environments I have every worked in,” said College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Talia Fittante. “It’s also been so fun to get to know non-theatre majors and watch them do the show solely for their love of musical theatre. It reignites my passion for it.”
Fittante plays the role of Paulette Bonafonte. Bonafonte is Elle Wood’s comedic sidekick and provides comedy for the show.
“I love Paulette’s original personality, but finding a way to put my own spin on it has been both very challenging and rewarding at the same time.”
Lane agreed that there was something positive and rewarding about this particular cast and production.
“There’s a song in it called “Positive” and I think that has been the mood and energy from the very first rehearsal,” said Lane. “I love to watch people who love what they’re doing on stage. Their love for this show and this process makes it so special."