‘Legally Blonde’ takes the stage
Abigail Hoverman | Monday, February 17, 2014
After months of preparation, an entirely student-run production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” opens this weekend as PEMCo’s main-stage winter show.
PEMCo, the primary student musical-theater group on campus, chose the pop musical for its upbeat nature and vocally demanding female parts, director and sophomore Jacob Schrimpf said.
“This seems like a traditional fit for the actors and resources of PEMCo,” he said. “The overall vibe of our group right now is very fitted to the show. We definitely have the right performers. We have a lot of energetic people in the group, which is great because the show is very high energy.”
After former producers and directors chose the winter show’s production team in May 2013, Schrimpf said he and the producers chose “Legally Blonde” from a list of four musicals.
“The rights for the show just came out a few years ago, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for amateur groups to perform it yet, which is exciting,” he said.
Schrimpf said cast selection was particularly difficult because more than 100 people auditioned for only 25 parts.
“It was amazing because we could have cast the show two or three times over with the amazing talent we had come in,” he said.
Senior Emily Nash, who plays the lead role of Elle Woods, said she joined PEMCo her freshman year when she auditioned for the company’s main-stage winter production. She said she is excited to see the growth in the quality of the group’s productions over the years. “The fact that it’s students having put together this entire show without any professional assistance is a big deal,” she said. “It’s cool to see the costumes, props, staging and set come together, knowing it’s all put together by young adults, makes it really unique.”
Nash said she appreciates the unique opportunity she has had to participate in musical theater even though she has no formal vocal or theatrical training.
“Audition, and keep auditioning, because you never know what they’re looking for, who they might need, and what spot they need filled. … It’s a really low-key, accepting, relaxed environment,” Nash said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Schrimpf said the cast has been rehearsing for four hours a day, five days a week, since Thanksgiving, making participation a serious commitment for students.
“People are really passionate about it, so people make it a priority, but it requires a lot of time management to balance the production and schoolwork,” Schrimpf said. “It’s a demanding process.”
As a Film, Television and Theatre major, Schrimpf said working on the show offered the opportunity to apply what he learned in his theater courses to a real production. Although he receives no academic credit, he said he enjoys the chance to explore future career possibilities.
“I find that things in my classes inform my decisions as a director, and my experience as a director is informing my learning,” he said. “This is helping me figure out if this is something I’m looking at pursuing professionally or not.”
Not everyone in the production studies theater academically, Schrimpf said.
Choreographer Maggie Miller majors in chemical engineering. Miller, a junior, has been active in Dance Company and recently discovered musical theater, although she began dancing when she was five.
“I didn’t do theater at all until last year,” she said.
Although audiences may be familiar with the film version of “Legally Blonde” and have expectations for the main characters, Nash said the musical features a more developed, quirky role for Elle.
“Knowing that there are certain expectations from the people who originated the role and taking those expectations and trying to live up to the role at the same time has been really challenging but fun,” Nash said.
Nash said she loves the musical version of “Legally Blonde” even more than she likes the movie.
“The premise of the movie is so ridiculous and fun-spirited that putting it in a musical setting, … adding over-the-top theater elements, takes it to another level that makes it even more fun,” Nash said.
Beyond unique elements like two live dogs as on-stage characters, Nash said the pop genre of the musical offers a relatable style of music and dance that is familiar and accessible for students, both on stage and in the audience.
“It’s a show where the music encourages you to let loose,” she said. “It’s really fun that way and makes the dancing more modern. … It’s fun that we can relate really well and bring that to the stage.”
Schrimpf said PEMCo’s hard work for the past three months makes the production exciting to watch.
“It’s a special group of people, and the show is a joy to watch,” he said. “If people are looking for a few hours to escape their stresses, this is a great opportunity.”
Miller said she looks forward to sharing the production with students.
“It’s a hilarious show, you can’t watch it without smiling,” she said. “It’s really upbeat. It’s so much fun. If you want to be put in a good mood, you should come. I still am laughing at rehearsals.”
Performances of “Legally Blonde” will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall. Tickets are available in advance at the LaFortune Box Office.