“Legally Blonde”: A Spring Musical Like No Other
May 5, 2023
When people attend a West High theater production, they can always expect greatness. 2023’s spring musical, “Legally Blonde,” was no exception. This year’s musical is sure to go down in West High history; with its star-studded cast, live music, and an array of carefully choreographed dance sequences, “Legally Blonde” — which sold out almost every night — broke barriers and conveyed important messages of empowerment and identity.
The musical focuses on lead Mia Gibson’s (12) character, Elle Woods, as she follows her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (played by Aiden Barrett (12)), into Harvard Law School. Gibson explained that one of the central themes of the musical was “pushing the boundaries of stereotypes” and “learning to be more than what you think you can be.”
Mrs. Orabuena, director of the Theater Department, said that Elle “exudes an air of air-headedness,” being a “typical blonde.” But as we learn more about her, we find that she is “smart, crafty, persistent, strong, and stubborn.” Mrs. Orabuena stated that this was an especially important message for students learning what it means to be true to themselves, especially as they search for their own identities.
Another central theme of “Legally Blonde” was feminism and sisterhood. Brandon Howard (12), who played Elle’s companion and eventual love interest Emmett Forrest, claimed that this theme shined through the character of Vivienne Kensington (Karin Gargus (11)), a brunette who first appears to be “smarter” and “more serious” than Elle. Despite their initial rivalry, it’s Vivienne who pushes Elle to continue pursuing law despite the sexual harassment she receives from her professor (Christian Robledo (10)). This brought to light some of the most serious issues that women face in the workplace. But as Howard put it, “women can accomplish anything when women bond together.”
Mrs. Orabuena felt these ideas were important to display, “especially as the mom of two young girls,” to prove that it’s possible to “rise above” any obstacle. Because the original “Legally Blonde” movie was created before the “#MeToo” movement grew prominent, Mrs. Orabuena claimed that it “pushed the envelope” for feminist ideas as we know them today.
Bringing out these ideas in musical form was no easy feat. In fact, Howard expressed how difficult it was for him “to bring Emmett’s character to life . . . stepping out of Brandon Howard and stepping into Emmett Forrest.” He commented that he wasn’t able to “bring the character together until the very last few days of tech [rehearsal],” which made him even more proud to properly display “Emmett’s character development throughout the show.” Gibson also described the difficulty of “having to stay healthy” since it was easy to “get worn down.” Howard shared a similar sentiment, sharing that he needed discipline to stay away from foods or activities that may harm his voice.
In addition, Mrs. Orabuena explained how costly the entire project was, especially considering the use of a live orchestra for the first time. The ensemble consisted of a group of hired professionals, in addition to three West High Band members. Despite the cost barrier, Mrs. Orabuena claimed that she doesn’t think she could “ever go back” to using a musical track. Mrs. Orabuena expressed great hope for the future of the theater, even as the current seniors graduate: “There are kids waiting in the wings right now to take their place, just as [the current cast] have been waiting the last couple of years.” It seems that West High theater will only continue to grow, possibly giving us even greater productions in the future.