Prep for Success: Behind the Scenes of West High’s Legally Blonde Musical
February 26, 2023
Brimming with acerbic irony, brilliant vocals, and sharp dance moves, West High Play Production’s “Legally Blonde” is highly anticipated among both cast members and students alike. Fewer things are more iconic among American audiences than leading lady Elle Woods’ revenge plot against ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III, who spited her on the grounds of Elle’s flamboyant, seemingly airheaded personality. In spite of all expectations set against her as a perceived “dumb blonde” and ex-sorority girl, Elle follows him to Harvard and is victorious as a lawyer in a high-profile murder case, proving that double-standard expectations of women have no place in the real world.
However, a splendid performance doesn’t come without long rehearsals and tenaciousness. As cast member Samantha Johnson (10) described, potential cast members started practicing musical numbers set by Mrs. Orabuena as early as December to prepare for a successful audition. In order to convey a precise portrayal of each character, auditioners needed to invest time on their own in order to present an accurate but unique performance. “We worked through songs so we could get to know them, but researching the character and preparing for the show is part of the preparation you have to do on your own,” Johnson explained. Auditioning was just the first step of a long, grueling process. Fellow Play Prod member Willow Roberts (10) agreed with Johnson, stating how countless hours of practice needed to be put in to prepare for the best show possible. “For theater, we have a ton of rehearsals. We have a whole schedule just for the month of January, but the preparation goes beyond that— you have to know when you’re needed, what you’re going to be singing, et cetera,” she described.
Mia Gibson (12), who plays the lead role of Elle Woods, detailed how much time the cast and crew alike had to put into rehearsing, even in the beginning stages of the show. “We are still very early in the process, but the prep that goes into putting on a show is a lot. We practice around 3-4 days a week for 2-3 hours. Then that leads to tech week, which is around a 4-day process where we are at practice for around 7 hours [a day]. We really have to work as a team,” she explained.
Balancing rehearsals with scheduling also proved to be a challenge for many cast members. Unfortunately, having to surrender personal time was a necessary sacrifice for some members of theater. “There’s definitely some family things I’ve had to miss because of rehearsals,” Roberts stated sadly. Gibson also commented on how difficult it was to manage long practices along with other academics and extracurriculars. “Especially since I’m also on the drill team, balancing extracurriculars with college applications can get really hard,” she explained. For Gibson, organizing her schedule ahead of deadlines is key to finishing all of her work on time. “I have to stay ahead on my schoolwork and finish things early to stay on track, and I pay a lot of attention to my calendar,” she added.
In comparison to Play Prod’s previous shows “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Chicago,” each had different elements that needed to be focused upon. “Chicago was a much more dance-heavy show, whereas Spelling Bee was much harder vocally. But for this musical, I think it’s a pretty good mix, so we’re starting off by practicing vocals,” Johnson stated.
In order to organize and learn their individual parts most effectively, both Johnson and Roberts found that taking notes on their individual scripts helped them remember small tidbits of information to better their performance. “Since I’m very prone to forgetting things, it’s helpful to have notes that I can look back on to remember,” Roberts detailed. Johnson affirmed that taking notes was useful for staying on track: “I write a ton of notes— my entire script will be covered with them, but it helps me stay focused because I’ll concentrate on writing instead of wandering off.”
According to Johnson and Roberts, reviewing one’s individual part helps to prepare for an exceptional performance. Additionally, Gibson emphasized the importance of being part of the team and connecting together as a whole: “I enjoy all the bonding time with my cast, and I love when the numbers start to come together and we can run through them over and over again!” she exclaimed.
There are countless things to look forward to in “Legally Blonde,” but Johnson is the most enthusiastic about enacting the musical in tandem with a live orchestra. “We’ll be sitting down with them as they play while we sing. Doing musicals with a live orchestra is something so different from doing it with regular tracks, so I’m really excited for that!” she exclaimed. For Roberts, the sheer excitement of the performance is most anticipated. “I’ve always loved singing, so being able to actually perform on stage brings me so much joy,” she expressed. “We’re also going to have a crazy set for “Legally Blonde” — it’s something like we’ve never done before!” she professed eagerly. Gibson was eager for other students to watch the musical: “I can’t wait to showcase it to my peers! We are so early in the process, but I can already tell it’s going to be great,” she beamed.
“Legally Blonde The Musical” opens on March 23rd and will have six shows total:
March 23-24, 29-31 at 7 p.m.
March 25 at 5 p.m.
Tickets will be available on West High’s GoFan website or at ASB. Prices vary based on seat selection.