Legally Blonde is just a really fun show. It is the antithesis of a heavy musical or an old chestnut, but mixed in with the uptempo tunes and lovely humor are some subtle messages about stereotypes and the dangers of judging people. The young women that attend Westover School in Middlebury presented their production of this show at their very impressive and modern Louise B. Dillingham Performing Arts Center a week later than expected due to weather issues. I felt like I was walking into the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre at the Warner, for the seating is similar. Director Marla Truini mentioned how much she has enjoyed working with the teens on the show and hoped they also learned some lessons in discounting potential in individuals.
Ms. Truini, assisted by Technical Director and Lighting Designer Ian Diedrich, makes wonderful use of the space, especially the stairs along the walls on each side of the stage and platforms to which they lead. One side served as the Delta Nu house while the other suggested Harvard. The six-piece orchestra, under the direction of Music Teacher Robert Havery, was seated on the floor in front of the good-sized stage. Although the microphones were adequate for the space, at times the orchestra overwhelmed the voices.
The large cast of overwhelming female members did a great job and according to the costumer Renee Purdy, they all "clamor to be 'the boys.'" The chosen few did so with aplomb. The bumbling Warner Huntington III was played by a junior boarder from New Haven named Britney Dumas, and several smaller male roles were ably covered by some brave girls. Nikos and Carlos (in "Gay or European") were played to perfection by Mairead Fay and Addie Pates, and Ms. Pates was a standout in the pivotal role of Kyle, the UPS guy. A freshman boarder from Maryland, Victoria E. Graham was strong as Professor Callahan. Dean of Faculty/Chaplain/English Teacher Thomas Hungerford played the role of Elle's father, English Teacher Paul McCullough, Mr. Diedrich and Dak Manella appeared as the admission department at Harvard, much to the delight of the students in the audience.
Now on to the girl roles...the students that made up the Delta Nu Dancers did a great job with the choreography by Suzanne Winoski and some female faculty members had cameos as jump-roping prisoners. Lai Penanhoat, a junior boarder from Massachusettes, was outstanding as the client Brooke Wyndham. Sorority sisters Margot, Serena, and Pilar were covered by Leah Nashel, Nicole Ganci and Meredith Flores. I saw Hannah Olshansky in The Scarlet Pimpernel at Chase; here she played the fun role of Enid Hoopes.
Sophia Lanman, a junior border student from Maine, was a memorable Elle Woods with a fine singing voice and the requisite blonde hair; she has the acting chops for a endearing performance. I am not sure how the personable Robert Peterson snagged the role of Emmett, Elle's eventual love interest, but he did an amazing job in this lead role. Another standout was Stephanie Crudele as Paulette Bonafante; this junior day student appearing in her sixth show at Westover has a clear voice and excellent comic timing.
Ms. Purdy did an amazing job outfitting the actors, as always. She supplied the wide variety of outfits needed with a deft touch. From the signature pink outfits for Elle to the perfect ensemble for the clearly gay and European Nikos, each cast member looked great. Numerous wigs were needed for those playing against gender and stuffed dogs were included in the cast.
Kudos to the girls in this drama department (and the adults who work with them.) They all did a fine job with a fun show and they will continue having a lot of fun onstage for their final performance Saturday at 7:30. Pay attention to the parking signs on the roads around the lovely campus. I look forward to attending another performance at Westover. Their winter play will be Machinal by Sophie Treadwell on Feb. 8 and 9 at 7:30...weather permitting, of course.