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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Legally Blonde: Illegally good

Legally Blonde had three sold-out performances.
Legally Blonde had three sold-out performances.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” had the whole audience saying, “Omigod, oh my god, you guys.” Most attendees were struck by the high-energy, hilarious show. Others simply could not get that catchy tune out of their heads. 

Middlebury students, faculty and community members alike danced over to the The Town Hall Theater on April 11 and 12 — the coolest of viewers wearing pink, because… duh. 

Many of us have seen the classic 2001 film “Legally Blonde” starring Reese Witherspoon, but the musical, which came out in 2007, brings the spirit of the piece to a whole new level. The famous “bend and snap” move turned into a spicy dance number, and the question of the sexuality of the pool boy in the central trial of the story became one of the crowd’s favorite songs: “Gay or European?” 

The plot of the musical largely aligns with that of the film. UCLA sorority girl Elle Woods (Patrice Cahill ’25.5) follows her ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Quinn Donaldson ’26.5) to Harvard Law School after he dumps her for not being “serious” enough. 

“I’m doing this for love, and love will see me through,” she sings to the crowd in the musical number “What You Want.” That same number finds Cahill breaking out her tap moves while spitting legal jargon like “May I approach?” in place of Harvard University applicants’ traditional personal essay. 

But upon arrival, there is little love to be found. Warner is dating Vivienne Kensington (Kate Ryan ’24.5), who embodies this desired “seriousness” in every way (at least in the first act, the only smile that crosses her face appears when dissing Elle). Faced with a romantic rival, Elle must go from a dumb blonde to legally blonde, with the help of Emmett Forrest ( Thomas Long ’25), with whom she shares a magical kiss in the final number. 

The show’s greatest strength was its vibrant energy. The crowd could feel just how much fun the cast was having, and they reacted with laughter throughout and a roaring standing ovation to finish. 

Cahill embodied Elle’s bubbly personality from start to finish. She strutted across the stage in three-inch heels, belting out songs ranging from tragic to hilarious. But this energy may not have been purely acting for Cahill. Even off-stage, she exhibited an overwhelming excitement for the show. 

“It just made rehearsal so fun having a great group of people from a range of ages with great energy,” Cahill told The Campus after opening night. She was surrounded by her beaming parents, who cheered the whole show. 

The trio of Delta Nu Sorority members (Campbell Keller ’26, Acadia Klepeis ’24 and Gabriela Rosen ’26) also kept energy levels high. They acted as angels throughout, responding to Elle’s life with their famous “omigod” — a crowd favorite was their eager reaction to Elle making her first successful point in class.

Dancers in the cast pulled off an impressive jump rope stunt, in which they rallied behind Brooke Wyndham (Ana Holmes ’27), who hit every note of the song “Whipped Into Shape” while speed jumping. What, like it’s hard? 

“I love playing villains, or just generally playing characters that are different than my actual personality,” said Jonathan Mount ’25.5, who played Professor Callahan, the condescending professor who tells the students that they need to look for “Blood in the Water” in order to be a successful lawyer, and later hits on Elle. 

MCMT has not staged a spring musical since “Big Fish” in 2022, and it was many students’ first-ever show with MCMT, which typically puts out one or two shows a year. Per Alexander ’24.5 did theater in high school, but has stuck to improv during his time at Middlebury. His performance, however, did not appear to be that of a first-timer. His Irish jig as the sexy UPS driver and aggressive hair flips as Nikos, the pool boy, were stellar.

It was Ryan’s first show as well, but it may not be her last. Although she had previously been considering completing her final semester off-campus, she told The Campus she may remain in Vermont in order to participate in next fall’s production.

Responsible for this energy on stage, of course, is the work done behind the scenes. 

“It was intense,” said Lucy Curtis-Cherry ’26, who worked on the tech crew for the show. “We didn’t really have any of the set pieces or props a week ago, so a lot of the last production was this past week during tech week. And there’s so many props and set moves, and that all happened in the past week.” 

The show was entirely student-run, which was not without its challenges. 

The original director of the show, Emma Dobson ’27, resigned from the position on March 28. The original choreographer of the show had also resigned just before rehearsals began, which led to the choreography being split up among different cast members. 

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“​​I feel that even though the board frequently offers its support, its actions instead lead to constant friction and unnecessary limitations to my direction,” Dobson wrote in an email to the MCMT board. 

Zoë Predmore ’27.5, who was previously slated to take over directing during tech week due to Dobson’s time conflict, took over for the last two weeks of rehearsal.

“I had such a great time meeting the cast and seeing their dedication to preparing for our performances,” Predmore wrote in a message to The Campus. 

Dobson cited issues with ordering costumes and rehearsal timing, and also told The Campus that she and MCMT seemed to have general disagreements on the direction of the show. She said that the club did not have enough resources to successfully put on “Legally Blonde.” 

“Legally Blonde is certainly a little bit more expensive,” MCMT Co-president Mount told The Campus. 

He said the rights to the show cost about $2,700, and Town Hall Theater takes a $1,500 fee for renting the space. The club was able to use leftover set pieces from Middlebury Union High School’s recent production of Legally Blonde Jr. 

Due to a new policy from the Student Activities Organization, performing arts organizations cannot use their operating budgets for ticketed performances. In order to pay for things like rights to scripts, costumes and sets, the club must use its gift account, which is funded through ticketed pricing.

As a result, Mount had to ask students to fill out a Google Form marking their attendance before the show to help the club raise enough funds through its gift account. Mount said he got 273 responses, though he estimates there were probably more attendees who did not fill out the form. He also asked the crowd to donate money for future productions if they were able.

Mount said that the club typically tries to pick lower-budget shows, but emphasized the return on investment of "Legally Blonde,” which had over 40 students involved. It also had three sold out performances, with tickets priced at $5 for Middlebury students and $20 for town residents. 

In the last two weeks, Mount said, a mix of the change of directorial style and the time crunch energized rehearsals, and the show really came together. 

“It was certainly stressful at times, but not necessarily bad stress,” Mount said. “We were all building towards something together. I am incredibly proud. I feel like especially in an educational environment like a college, it’s rare to see a cast of 30-plus people who are all so talented, so dedicated and so kind.” 

Any troubles behind the scenes were invisible to the audience, who watched a magnificent production this past weekend. Oh, and the next time you pick up a copy of The Middlebury Campus, try out the bend and snap technique to see if you can catch the attention of those around you.

Editor’s note: Acadia Klepeis ’24 is the Senior Arts & Culture Editor for The Campus.

Katie Futterman

Katie Futterman '24 (she/her) is a Managing Editor.

Katie previously served as a News Editor and Staff Writer. This past summer, she was a news intern at Seven Days, and she held the same position at the Addison Independent the prior summer. In her free time, she loves to read, write, and bask in the sun.