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09May

Legally Blonde - Westfield High School - Chantilly, Virginia - May 6, 2017

Maille Smith

James Madison High School

 

In a cutthroat world of limiting stereotypes and intellectual condescension, a clarion call to abandon preconceptions rings true: no human, no matter how blonde, should be discounted or ignored. Delivered with precision and fervor, Westfield High's production of Legally Blonde captures a tale of broken boundaries and new hope through Elle Woods' ever-optimistic eyes, enlivened by an enthusiastic and multi-talented cast and crew.

 

Based on the Amanda Brown novel and adapted from the popular 2001 movie, Legally Blonde: The Musical tells the story of Elle Woods, a spunky blonde sorority sister who, spurned by her boyfriend for not being "serious" enough, follows him from sunny Malibu to snooty Harvard Law School to prove herself. In the process, she learns her true worth and teaches the uppity Harvardians to embrace their own inner blonde.

 

Performing an intensely song-and-dance heavy musical, the large cast's unfaltering energy and many singular personalities within ensembles consistently engages the audience. The juxtaposition between the joyous, effervescent sorority girls and snobbish, dull Harvardians illustrates the cold foreignness of Harvard when Elle first arrives, while Paulette's (Aja Rene) commanding comedic presence and her brightly colored salon create a warm haven for Elle, and for the audience. Hip-hop-based choreography, executed with precision, adds to the musical's exuberant mood.

 

Displaying impressive emotional range as she transitions from insecure, self-appointed arm candy to a confident self-driven individual, Elle (Molly Van Trees) shines in the up-tempo "What You Want" and "So Much Better" aided by a consistently animated ensemble; her bright, sonorous voice never falters through her many energy-intensive numbers. She and Emmett (John Henry Stamper) showcase sweet chemistry as the musical and their relationship progresses. In "Chip on My Shoulder," Stamper wows with rich vocals underlying palpable passion. As Emmett and Elle inspire newfound confidence in one another, both characters' energy swells to its apex in "Find My Way/Finale."

 

Opening on the exterior of the Delta Nu house, sorority sisters Margot (Aubrey Cervarich), Serena (Kaley Haller), and Pilar (Ruby Tippl) immediately pull the audience into the spirit of the musical with their sparkling performance of "Omigod You Guys," and continue to amaze with distinct personalities, sharp choreography, and impressive vocals throughout the musical. Genuine and hilarious, Aja Rene as the ever-spirited Paulette awes with warm, exquisite vocals in "Ireland," infusing heartfelt emotion into a comedic song. As fitness guru Brooke Wyndham, Lily Whitman showcases her aerobic endurance and facial animation in "Whipped into Shape," in which she belts out the exercise anthem while jumping rope and performing various stunts. All actors enthusiastically and fully committed to their roles, making Legally Blonde a true treat for the audience.

 

A lively pit orchestra, dedicated choreographers, and appropriate mood-based lighting further enhanced the audience's experience. Despite minor sound issues, actors were clearly audible for most of the production, a great feat with such a large cast. Always on-beat with the singers, the impressive orchestra known as "Enya and the Whales" performed spectacularly in concert with those onstage. Choreography, headed by Sarah Bresnahan, consistently amazed; the cast devoted more than 139 hours to learning and perfecting dances. With the stage bathed in pink for joyful moments, blue for melancholy scenes, and even in the Irish flag for "Ireland," the lighting, designed by Ray Panzer and Kitt Williams, greatly contributed to the overall atmosphere of this excellent performance.

 

With its enthusiastic cast and crew, Westfield High's Legally Blonde delivers not only an infectious ebullience but also in conveying a deeper message: do not allow stereotypes, no matter how concrete they may appear, to define your life path.


 

Jasmine Pierce

Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School

 

What do you do when your boyfriend breaks up with you, but you are convinced that was biggest mistake of his life and he meant to propose?  You strategically maneuver your way into the Harvard School of Law, of course!  Westfield High School Theatre takes its audience along for the wild ride of college life for Elle Woods in their production of "Legally Blonde."

 

Based off the novel "Legally Blonde" by Amanda Brown, this lively musical was released in 2007 after being written by Heather Hatch, with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin.  For Delta Nu sorority sister Elle Woods, life is a dream.  She has loving friends, all the pink she can handle, and a boyfriend, Warner, whom she adores.  When things don't turn out with Warner as Elle had hoped, she starts a mission to get just want she wants. Unexpectedly, this mission took her to the heart of Harvard Law School.  Not one to give up, Elle, takes on law to impress Emmett, but surprises herself as she finds she enjoys the study of law itself.  Elle continues to take on Harvard Law in all her pink glory.  What began as a journey to get her boyfriend back, turned into a journey of self-discovery, with unexpected love waiting along the way. 

 

From the first note played by the student orchestra of Westfield High School, the audience is enraptured.  Everything continues to improve from there as the characters begin to take the stage. Molly Van Trees, playing Elle Woods, executed utmost professionalism and skill as she took on this iconic role.  Not once did her characterization ever waver, nor her vocals-even as she belted in huge numbers such as the title song "Legally Blonde."  Other actors also brought unbelievable skill to the stage.  John Henry Stamper (Emmett Forrest) kept the balance that is Emmett Forrest as he remained, supportive, in love with Elle, and in charge of his emotions, all while being adorably awkward and hilarious.  The comedic timing by Stamper was exceptional, as were his vocals.  The incredible Paulette (Aja Rene) is a sweet and comedic character with an intense amount of belting pieces throughout the show.  Rene "WOWED" the audience with not just her acting and comedic skill, but also with her vocals, especially in her solo "Ireland."

 

The energy from the Delta Nu sorority sisters throughout the entire show was astounding.  Never once did someone in the ensemble waver or lose character.  The student-made choreography (by Emily Bidinger, Sarah Bresnahan, and Bridgette Carey) was quality and quite complicated at times, yet cast members pulled it off excellently while maintaining stage presence and outstanding vocals.  Sisters Serena (Kaley Haller) and Margot (Aubrey Cervarich) were true standouts in this ensemble.  Other ensemble members like Grandmaster Chad (Gene Kim) had the audience roaring with laughter without even having to say lines. 

 

Along with much of the show, the lights kept things moving and were used well to reflect the moods of characters and what was happening during the show. The makeup and hair fit well for each character and was done tastefully.  Westfield High's set was splendid and used to its fullest potential. The set was versatile, and each piece looked as if was not merely part of a set, but part of the story.

 

"Legally Blonde" is a huge show for any company to put on.  Westfield High School Theatre rose to the challenge and created an incredibly professional, high quality show that will leave audience members in awe from the first note of the show to its curtain call.

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