Students breaking out of stereotypes with Legally Blonde

March 1, 2013

Joseph Pratt

PDT Contributor

The Portsmouth Area Children’s Theatre (PACT) is packed with pep this spring as the senior company presents their production of "Legally Blonde: The Musical", which will hit the Vern Riffe Center of the Arts with big musical numbers, dance breaks, bend and snaps, and of course, dogs.

The senior company was established for students in high school that are prepared to take the next step up into an atmosphere more similar to adult theatre, verses junior theatre shows. This gives them an opportunity for more artistic expression, a chance to tackle tough topics, to study harder music and dancing and to expose the students to theatre most have never been able to before.

"From the start, the senior company was created under the idea that we would let the kids take artistic risks, and we’ve come to discover that the arts is a very safe place to explore pretty difficult topics," Portsmouth Area Arts Council (PAAC) director, Becky Lovins said. "There are some really great shows that touch base on bullying and self respect and are relevant to kids these days and theatre provides the perfect way to really explore some of these issues."

Since the senior company was designed to be an artistic vehicle for older arts students, the theatre has a tradition of letting the students pick the show. It wasn’t a hard choice for the students this year.

"After we did Sweeney Todd last year, we had a meeting with some of the senior company cast members who would be returning for this year and we discussed what types of shows we would be interested in doing and we narrowed it down between two or three different shows and when it came down to it, Legally Blonde was a favorite between almost everyone and I think it was an extremely good choice," Lovins said.

The decision to produce Legally Blonde wasn’t just a hit with the students, the volunteers and board members really embraced the decision as well because of the show’s morals and lessons.

"Overwhelmingly, the moral of Legally Blonde is that you absolutely have to be true to yourself to be happy. The main character believes that her goal in life is to be a trophy wife; she wants to marry her college sweetheart, become the trophy wife of a lawyer, and wants to live a very simply structured, materialistic life," Lovins said. "So, when she is turned down by her boyfriend because he says that he needs someone more serious, she decides to change who she is to win him back. On this journey, she learns that she should always be herself, she should never underestimate herself, and in the end, it’s being herself that makes her happy."

Alison Thompson, senior at West High School, has been involved in musical theatre for as long as she can remember and has been studying not only her music for this show, but for her auditions for musical theatre schools. Thompson will be portraying leading character, Elle Woods.

Thompson recently auditioned for Kent State’s musical theatre program and has a strong desire to pursue theatre, "Why does anyone go into anything?" Thompson said, when questioned about her choice to pursue theatre. "I love it; it’s my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life."

The show is about a lot more than Elle and Thomspon recognizes all of the smaller parts of the show that really add to the theme and giving lessons through the characters’ struggles.

"I love all of the diverse characters and the little side stories each of them have that all come together for a beautiful show," Thompson said. "This show isn’t something that many high school kids have the opportunity to do here in southern Ohio, but it is a very good show with amazing morals."

Thompson thinks that although her character starts off on the wrong mindset, she learns, and by the end of the show has found her place and her strengths.

Barrett Elrod, junior at West High School, has been involved in theatre since early elementary school and has been in various productions at West and PACT. Elrod will be playing Emmett the love interest of leading character, Elle Woods.

"Emmett is this man is who is trying to make his own niche in law," Elrod said, "And he’s really already made a name for himself by becoming this famous college professor’s assistant. He is just trying to work his way up to making a healthy living for himself and to buy his mom a house."

Barrett knew what role he wanted as soon as Legally Blonde was chosen as the senior company production.

"I love being Emmet. He is quirky, he’s hilarious, his songs are phenomenal, and his love connection with Elle is just so much fun to do," Elrod said. "I absolutely love my character in this show."

Shows tend to drag on, any theatre person will admit this during rehearsal, but Elrod hardly notices it.

"I love Legally Blonde. I loved it from the moment I heard its music and I am just so happy to be a part of it. I usually get tired of a show’s music after running through it so much, and I haven’t even gotten tired of it once during Blonde."

Aundrea Cline, junior at West high School, is playing the supporting, feel-good character, Paulette. Cline has been seen in many shows in the local community and is glad to be adding a role she really loves to her theatrical resume.

"Paulette is this outgoing and energetic hairdresser who befriends Elle and really councils and tells her that she needs to go and fight for what she wants and to not give up," Cline said.

Cline believes that Paulette’s personality is contagious and sure to entertain, especially in the iconic "bend and snap" scene.

"I think everyone will love how Paulette is very straight forward and in your face," Cline said, "She is bold about everything and never really sugarcoats anything. I’m also looking forward to everyone getting a chance to see the ‘Bend and Snap’ number, which is a lot of fun to do."

Tag Sadler, junior at West High School, is thrilled to be playing the bad guy in this show and wants to leave an impression with his portrayal of the dirt bag professor, Callahan.

"I saw one of Mrs. Tieman’s shows at West and I got really into it. I was so excited to join high school, because I knew I’d be able to be a part of her great shows," Sadler said, when expressing his love of theatre.

"I love Callahan’s creepy personality and I’ve always wanted to play the bad guy. He gives an internship to Elle not for the right reason, which comes out later in the show," Sadler said. "Once he realizes Elle is smarter than that, he fires her."

Being in the show almost didn’t happen for Sadler, but he is excited to be a part of something he feels will really win the crowd over with its hilarity and drama.

"I think Legally Blonde is a hilarious show," Sadler said. "I was worried about my schedule and almost didn’t audition, but I am really glad that I went for it," Sadler said, "I think the audience will love the show and there is one scene where it is really serious and there isn’t going to be a dry eye in the audience."

Legally Blonde is to open on the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts main stage Friday, March 15 at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, March 16, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 17, at 1:30. The junior theatre company will be presenting a Broadwall selection preshow before curtain call. General admission is $10. For more information, contact the McKinley Box Office at 351-3600.

"The kids love it. They are really getting into their characters more than I’ve ever seen" Lovins said. "The music is fun and more pop; it is really, really easy to have fun with. I’m sure everyone will love seeing our senior company perform ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical.’"