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‘Legally Blonde’ at SMC: A stunning showcase of female empowerment

When I heard that Saint Mary’s Theatre Department was planning a production of “Legally Blonde,” I was excited to say the least. The feeling of nostalgia watching this musical combined with the way Saint Mary’s College has empowered women was an amazing combination. 

From the opening scene when the Delta Nu sisters perform “Omigod You Guys,” I was in absolute awe of the music, the set, the costumes and everything in between. The music within this production never failed to impress me throughout the show, and the vibrant dance numbers added to the fun. All of these outstanding elements were demonstrated an immense attention to detail.

The portrayal of Warner (Rylan Chromy) brought justice to the ex-boyfriend we love to hate. He wore a condescending smirk with his character and constantly called Elle (Delaney Nold) “a Marilyn.”

Warner’s character in the musical was fascinating especially when it came to the creativity in his interactions with Vivianne’s character. Vivianne (Natalie Biegel) was not Warner’s fiancé in the beginning of the musical, but instead, his girlfriend. She ignores Elle’s wish to support each other as women and uses derogatory language.

The character development Vivianne undergoes is amazing. She stands up against Warner when he thinks Elle is sleeping with Professor Callahan (Steve Chung), and she encourages Elle to stay. Vivianne tells her that women have to stick together. The contrast to the film propelled the theme of women empowering women.

Enid (Catherine Cushwa) feminist views were kept within this production, but the musical went further. Elle’s decision to dress as a bunny receives criticism from Vivianne, and when Enid becomes aware of this, she starts an argument. The changes within the dynamic between Warner and Vivianne made resulted in his unfortunate fate that was enjoyable to watch.

The creative liberties taken in the show were not limited to the character’s but also within the musical numbers. Paulette (Tenley Edvardson) included a beautiful number of her Irish dancing accompanied by an ensemble. The number was beautifully done, and fleshing out Paulette’s story to include a love for Ireland was an amazing addition to the show. 

The musical numbers were not only beautiful but the production played into the humorous components of the film. In a number titled “Gay or European?” was broached with sensitivity, but it was highly humorous to watch. The scene ended with Nikos (Ayden Kowalski) admitting that he was both gay and European. 

[Editor’s note: Ayden Kowalski is a Scene writer for The Observer.]

The production invites laughing wholeheartedly and evenhandedly at a wide range of stereotyped characters. Elle is a reflection of the stereotypes placed on her. She is not viewed as being serious and her value is related to her looks, and, in the end, she reclaims the insult initially used against her by Callahan. 

The use of the production title “Legally Blonde” comes about only within the musical. It is a number that Elle sings when she chooses to leave Harvard. The lyrics reflect Elle’s story, she sings, “Some girls fight hard, some face the trial, some girls are just meant to smile.”

She overcomes the perceptions others have of her, and watching Elle’s journey throughout the musical is heart-warming and empowering.

Play: “Legally Blonde”

Where: Saint Mary’s College 

Starring: Delaney Nold, Rylan Chromy, Brenton Abram-Copenhaver

Director: Mark Abram-Copenhaver

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News

Pippin set to show at DPAC

A student-led performance of the musical comedy “Pippin” will show at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center this weekend. Students have worked this semester to create a show that will not only make audiences laugh, but also reflect on the broader theme of one’s purpose in life. 

Nick Buranicz is a senior chemistry and FTT double major and both the director and executive producer of “Pippin”. He chose to put this show on as his senior Capstone project for the musical theater minor partly because of the liveliness of the content, he said. “It’s really fun, really colorful, and really movement and dance-based.” 

His role is both administrative and creative. He has worked on the show since early August, when he pitched it to the FTT department, and throughout the semester, staging the performance, working with the choreographer, the music directors, and other creative leaders. “We kind of built it up over time, like any standard theater process,” he said. 

Though he isn’t performing in this show, Buranicz has a strong background in acting, having started when he was a freshman in high school. Once arriving at Notre Dame, he took a directing class with Professor and Director of Musical Theater, Matt Hawkins, which he said helped inform him as a director and an actor. 

Pippin’s story is not only told by the script itself, but by the “directing choices, acting, crew, and music,” Emily Kane said. She is a senior majoring in ACMS (Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics) and honors music performance with a minor in education, schooling, and society. She is the music director in charge of the orchestra pit for “Pippin.” She has worked with the musicians who will play live for each performance, and studied the score as one of their conductors. 

This performance required a rigorous rehearsal schedule. Rehearsal started in the second week of the semester, and took place five days a week for four hours each day. “I’m looking forward to having a show that’s really solid, that people can come and enjoy and say, ‘Wow, that was really well done,’” Buranicz said.

Carlos Macias, a sophomore neuroscience and behavior major, mentioned that he has spent many hours at rehearsal. He is playing the lead role of “Pippin.” 

Macias started doing musical theater at the end of his junior year of high school, and this show will be his first time as a cast member in a musical on Notre Dame’s campus. Nerves and excitement are both present for him, but he is especially looking forward to showing people a side of him that he is passionate about. “It’s kind of awesome to reveal the rest of what makes you yourself,” he said.

Timothy Merkle is a senior FTT major with a concentration in theater and has an ACMS supplemental major and a minor in musical theater. He is performing the roles of King Charles and “player” as well as working as the assistant director. His role as king is a source of fun energy in the show, he said. “I think you often have this idea of a king as a very proper figure who does not joke around, and King Charles is the opposite of that.” 

Merkle and Buranicz have worked to make a professional environment, while keeping it fun, encouraging the cast members to make their own choices in playing their roles, Merkle said. As for the audience, Merkle hopes that the performance can serve as an entertaining and energetic “mental escape from school,” he said.  

Another reason Buranicz chose “Pippin” was because of its message. As a devout Catholic, Buranicz likes to incorporate themes within the Catholic realm into the shows he directs, he said, and “Pippin” has a universal message of self-sacrifice and asks the question of “where we can find true fulfillment and happiness in the world.”  

Throughout the rehearsal process, the cast has gotten close with each other. Kate Turner is a sophomore FTT and vocal performance double major with a musical theater minor, who has been doing musical theater since she was four years old. Turner will be playing the role of Catherine in the show. She spoke about the energy and closeness of the group that has made this performance special. “Everyone has been so enthusiastic and everyone has brought a different thing to the table,” she said. 

“Pippin” is showing Oct. 7-9, 2022, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., at the Philbin Studio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Pippin. Performances are scheduled for October 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday October 9 at 2 p.m.