Saratoga’s adaptation of ‘Legally Blonde’ draws praise

May 3, 2017 — by Elicia Ye and Katherine Zhou
Photo by Allyson Chang

Samantha Sherman and JT Hulme rehearse in March in preparation for "Legally Blonde."

Director Sarah Thermond enjoyed the Broadway version of the musical, and decided to stage “Legally Blonde” this year after many drama students requested it.

“Omigod you guys!” A group of sorority girls, dressed in UCLA cheer uniforms and bathrobes, sang as the audience burst out into laughter.

With the stage decorated as the fictional Delta Nu Sorority, the highly anticipated spring musical, “Legally Blonde,” debuted in the McAfee Center on April 21. Pink doors and bedazzled signs lined the stage as UCLA Fashion Merchandising major and Delta Nu president Elle Woods, played by senior Samantha Sherman, followed her ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III, played by senior Will Liddle, to Harvard Law school.

“Elle is very quirky and she lives a very simple life; she doesn’t have much to worry about,” Sherman said. “Her whole life is turned around when she realizes that there’s more to her than just her looks or her fashion sense.”

The musical, directed by drama teacher Sarah Thermond, is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 motion picture, using the original screenplay of the musical with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin.

Thermond enjoyed the Broadway version of the musical, and decided to stage “Legally Blonde” this year after many drama students requested it. Thermond actually originally stayed away from “Legally Blonde” because she didn’t want to cast the lead based on a physical feature, like hair color. But she changed her mind once students suggested the lead could wear a wig if the person wasn’t a blonde. This allowed Sherman, a brunette, to take on the role.

“I knew that there was a lot of student enthusiasm for ‘Legally Blonde,’ and I knew that it was a show that I like,” Thermond said. “When the students think of something and I think of something, it's usually a good sign.”

“Legally Blonde” is tonally different from musicals in years past, like the more serious “Les Miserables” in 2014 and the unique “Mystery of Edwin Drood” in 2016.

“It’s a much more contemporary musical,” Thermond said. “Even the musicals written in the modern era we’ve done in the past weren’t set in the modern era. ‘Legally Blonde’ has a pop sound to it, which I think makes it catchy and makes the cast and the audience sing it all the time.”

Additionally, Thermond was nervous about showing the musical at first, but after receiving primarily positive reviews, has been pleasantly surprised with the community’s reaction.

“I consider it to be the most risque things we’ve done because there is innuendo,” Thermond said. “There are sexual references, and there is a whole scandalous song in Act Two.”

The cast has been preparing for this musical since late January, holding three-hour practices nearly every day. Despite tough scheduling that resulted in only about two full practices of each scene before the run-throughs in the McAfee, the cast persevered.

“We have a lot of really strong, wonderful girls who can sing and act and dance and are very funny,” Thermond said. “As far as shows we’ve done, I’d say that this probably is the one that has the most named female characters with solos; I knew it would be a good chance to show off how much talent is in our department.”

Throughout the musical, Sherman’s character interacts and immediately develops a bond with fan-favorite Paulette Bonafonté, played by senior Lea Moustakas, who runs her own manicure salon and continues to offer Woods advice as her confidante. Junior Hannah Yoon’s character, Vivienne Kensington, serves as a foil to Woods and fits the “serious” label suited for Harvard Law.

“Not too surprisingly, I identify with the character I play in this show,” Yoon said. “Vivienne is a girl who likes to put up a front of being a terrifying and sharp lawyer, but deep down she does have a human heart.”

Despite facing obstacles, Woods eventually embraces her blonde, genuine and fashion-loving self as she pursues her love for law — instead of pursuing Warner.

The cast also welcomed Anders Rosenquist, a Los Gatos High School junior, to play the guitar along with the pit orchestra for the show. The tech crew, on the other hand, faced unusual challenges, because there are many costume changes written into the musical. In addition, the cast had to work with two dogs, Ania and Mateusz Kranz’s dog, a Yorkshire terrier who plays Elle’s dog Bruiser, and Raquel Boales’ dog, an English bulldog who plays Paulette’s dog Rufus.

Thermond said she is pleased with the result of the musical, and the turnout of the audience was higher than in recent years.

“What I will say is that so far, a little halfway through the performances, the cast and the crew have been a lot more consistent than some years,” Thermond said. “They really have been vigilant about making sure they’re putting in their all every night, and I think that really shows in the audience experience.”

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