Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
A squad of squealing sorority sisters. A totally-dream-worthy-oh-wait-they-broke-up couple. Leaping love songs for Irish men. Omigod, you guys: it's Walt Whitman High School's production of Legally Blonde!
Based on the 2001 hit Hollywood movie with the same title, Heather Hach's Legally Blonde follows preppy Malibu princess Elle Woods as she chases her ex-boyfriend, Warner, to Harvard Law School. With love and looks in mind, Elle finds herself pitted against an unexpected world of harsh academics. Under the boisterous beating of marching bands, the dazzling pinks of ditzy day dresses, and the hysterical hip-bumping in hair salons, Legally Blonde is the story of Elle's journey to discover her self-worth as she navigates the legal sphere one sequined step at a time. The show's animated atmosphere captured the world by storm, driving its way to Broadway in 2007 to create a cultural phenomenon.
Maddie Belanoff's performance as Elle dazzled the stage with girlish delight. Sporting a lilting voice, Belanoff portrayed Elle as a head-over-heels, giggly airhead in Warner's presence. When Warner waltzed into her room, Belanoff plopped dramatically onto the bed, stretched seductively over the mattress, and batted her eyelashes in innocence to look attractive, yet natural. After being selected for a prestigious internship, Belanoff's beautiful vibrato elegantly elongated in the song "So Much Better" - her voice tightening then bursting with excited energy and culminating into a captivating belt with arms outstretched to the sky.
Belanoff's giddy performance was grounded by Joseph Akinyoyenu's portrayal of Emmett. Where Belanoff was bubbly and bouncy, Akinyoyenu was calm and collected. When urging Elle to find her purpose in the song "Chip on My Shoulder", Akinyoyenu molded his speech into a subtle melody - lyrically conveying desperate determination, yet still retaining control by never breaking into complete vocalization. With a gorgeous tone of voice weaving delicately between Belanoff's desolate pleas for acceptance, Akinyoyenu's voice oozed with anguished hope and affection in the song "Legally Blonde".
Ellie Arenstein radiated comically as Paulette. Through bumbling movements, Arenstein painted Paulette as an unpolished, dramatic character. Arenstein lunged sharply to the song "Ireland", falling hopelessly to her knees with desperation for an Irish lover. With a face dejectedly buried in Belanoff's lap, Arenstein's voice deliberately cracked, and the thick Boston accent squeaked with emotion.
Kiara Pearce's Brooke showed incredible dexterity. While performing the song "Whipped into Shape", Pearce rhythmically bounced while jumping rope. The physical exertion never hindered Pearce's vocal performance, allowing a high-spirited, ringing voice to scathingly decree the next workout move.
Gabriela Murray, Katelyn Leonard, and Jasper Murray's costume design used expressive colors to identify characters: drab, faded neutrals for the dull Harvard students, bright, sparkly pink for perky Elle, and tattered, weathered browns for penniless Emmett. Featuring an astonishing one hundred outfit changes, the trio created a truly immersive atmosphere. When setting the dinner scene, the stage crew emulated waiters through white shirts and black slacks, while during the classroom scene, they donned blazers and vests like other students. The set design by Kieran Graeff, Micah Janger, Caroline Melmed, and Skai Glasser infused the production with intricacy. Elle's room burst with pink - walls, carpet, and bedding proudly displaying femininity. The crew cleverly laid a UCLA throw blanket onto the bed, a subtle nod to the school of Elle's cherished past.
Moving yet unapologetically loud, Walt Whitman High School's production of Legally Blonde displayed a case of giddy delight that will undoubtedly win anyone over!
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
From breakup to breakthrough, Walt Whitman High School told a story of self-discovery in their upbeat production of Legally Blonde.
Based on the novel of the same name, Legally Blonde features music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Since premiering on Broadway in 2007, the show has been adapted into a popular reality show and movie. Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, a young woman who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School to win him back but ends up being swept into a prestigious internship that teaches her how to be an ethical lawyer, a considerate friend, and a kind person.
Playing Elle Woods, Maddie Belanoff displayed incredible emotional and physical versatility throughout the show, bringing energy and charisma to the character. Belanoff's use of exuberant dancing in the song "What You Want" and flirtatious clothing adjustments in the presence of her ex contrasted excellently with her quiet, shaky voice after Professor Callahan's sexual harassment in the song "Legally Blonde." Elle's transition from confidence in her physical self to confidence in her intelligence was played with grace, as Belanoff kept Elle's bubbly energy consistent but slowly balanced it with more assertiveness, showing Elle's intense resolve to succeed.
Joseph Akinyoyenu gave Emmett Forrest a quiet determination and fierce sense of purpose that grounded the show. Akinyoyenu established himself as a driven student through the use of restricted movements and confident, level delivery of lines, while still giving Emmett nuance through changes in these patterns. After Emmett drank his first energy drink, Akinyoyenu showed his agitation by bouncing his knee rapidly. In "Chip on My Shoulder," Akinyoyenu used speak-singing and powerful notes to convey the pressure he felt to succeed.
Ellie Arenstein as Paulette, crafted a dependable, and hilarious character through the use of sharp, flailing movements and a strong, consistent Boston accent. In "Bend and Snap," where Elle attempts to help Paulette impress her new mailman, Arenstein's awkward and unsure attempts to follow Elle's advice brought vulnerability to the otherwise remarkably strong character. As Paulette helped Elle through rough patches, convincing her not to go brunette and to go back to school, Arenstein's well-timed delivery of one-liners relieved tension.
The set design (Kieran Graeff, Micah Janger, Caroline Melmed, Skai Glasser) featured four settings with distinct color patterns and structures that changed during seamless, brief transitions. Elle's bedroom featured bright pink walls and a cluttered floor, while Harvard Law School's rich greens, deep navies, dark wooden tones, and clean lines created an academic environment. This contrast allowed Elle to stand out in her new environment and established her bedroom as her haven.
The costume department (Gabriela Murray, Katelyn Leonard, Jasper Murray) executed more than 100 quick changes throughout the show. An ingenious use of magnets allowed Elle to switch from a semi-formal, light dress to a formal, hot pink date night dress on stage in preparation for her anticipated proposal. Later, when Elle helped Emmett find a suit that would better represent him to his superiors, Emmett changed into the new suit and tie onstage behind racks of clothing. Elle's ten costumes allowed her character to shift from sequined pink tops to a more professional, dark red dress and eventually to a navy blazer to show her growth into a capable lawyer.
Walt Whitman High School displayed impressive versatility throughout their production of Legally Blonde to show that hard work, loyal friends, and a couple of good dance moves can go a long way.