Above from left: Janessa Piché, Isabella Harding, Jillian Andrews, and Amy Begg rehearse one of the choreography numbers from the upcoming show – Stephen Dafoe Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
It’s been a novel, a feature movie, and a broadway play, and now it is Morinville Community High School’s (MCHS) next theatrical production. Legally Blonde will perform at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre for a three-day run from Dec. 14 to 16.
Following on last year’s highly-successful production of Newsies, MCHS drama teacher and director Vanessa King said picking a show each year is challenging because there are many elements to consider.
“We look at potential cast size and composition, vocal range and choreo ability, and we always want to pick a show that’s going to be a star vehicle for as many of our actors as possible,” King explained. “We also aim to pick a show that can’t be easily compared to the previous show. We always say apples to oranges. Legally Blonde is our first real contemporary musical, both written and set in recent years.”
This year’s production is predominantly female, and King said the cast is excited to be playing girls for a change.
“It’s really difficult to find a script that gives all our talented female performers roles they can sink their teeth into,” she said. “This script is full of fun, intelligent, diverse character representation, and we’re pumped to bring them to the MCHS stage.”
This year’s show has a cast of just under 30 students, and although yet to be assembled, the crew will comprise roughly ten more students.
King held auditions in mid-September, and rehearsals started five days later. Auditions take up two hours daily after school, with the occasional eight-hour push on weekends. Professional development Days see five-hour choreography-building sessions with the production’s choreography team.
“Our cast has been amazing. They pick up on the songs and choreography really fast,” King said. “It’s so fun to watch the progress each rehearsal. One of the rules we have is that rehearsals are for rehearsing, not for learning your lines— meaning actors should come to each rehearsal already well-versed in their lines and lyrics for the scene we’re practicing that day. This cast has been amazing for being off-script early, which makes rehearsals super productive.”
Audience members familiar with the 2001 Reese Witherspoon film can expect differences but only a few good ones. King said fans of the film would appreciate the lines made famous by Witherspoon that pop up in the script.
“What the musical brings to the show, in our eyes, is a stronger message for female empowerment,” King said. “Elle [the lead character] goes through a more dynamic character arch in the musical, and because of the musical numbers, we get to witness more of her transformation. We focus on the fact that at no point was Elle ever a dumb blonde. She just had different priorities. Watching her shift her priorities in the musical is so much fun.”
Despite the odd timing of last year’s production, Newsies, the show sold out its run. But King and her cast are looking forward to the return to their regular early-December run for the show.
“We’re hoping that returning to the December schedule only improves our audience sizes,” King said. “Morinville has always stepped up to support our shows, and we have always been so grateful. What’s been positive for the MCHS Theatre Program is that since being a part of the Alberta Youth Theatre Collective (formerly Cappies), we now have audience members coming to see our shows from across the Edmonton area. We’re hoping to continue to draw an audience from theatre lovers all around the area.”
King encourages local theatre lovers to get tickets early and support this year’s show on its three-day run in December.
“I think we’ve earned a reputation for the quality of shows that we put on at MCHS, and Legally Blonde is definitely going to live up to that reputation,” King said. “This show is a total bop! The script is hilarious; the songs are so catchy; the choreo is tight, the message is positive, and this cast deserves an audience. Grab all your sorority sisters and frat boys, and come see another amazing MCHS production!”
Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets will be available soon at MCHS and Morinville Sobeys. Students will also sell tickets at the Morinville Christmas Market on Dec. 4.
Doors for each day’s performance open at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at 7 p.m.