Columbia High School's Production of Legally Blonde a Smash
Friday, March 15, 2013 • 10:02am
MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Columbia High School’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical opened for a packed audience last Friday. Directed by local language arts teacher Rob Cohen and produced by veteran school musical director (and accredited magician) Michael Healy, this version of Legally Blonde was staged with polish and professionalism. But the show also provided the student actors of Maplewood and South Orange with irresistible comic roles and irreverent, raucously entertaining song-and-dance numbers.
Legally Blonde began as a novel by Amanda Brown, which then inspired a 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon. The Broadway musical version opened to fairly good reviews in 2007 and went on to an award-winning run in London, closing only in 2012.
The storyline of Legally Blonde focuses on Elle Woods, a Malibu sorority girl who unexpectedly gains admission to Harvard Law School. Elle initially goes to Harvard to win back her ex-boyfriend; instead, she makes quirky new friends and learns a lot about hard work, talent, and compassion.
As Elle, senior Austin Bommer delivers a performance that is both attention-grabbing and heartfelt. And senior Nigel Finley finds the subtle side of an older Harvard grad who befriends Elle. The supporting cast includes everyone from an underhanded law professor (senior Jonah Wolff) to a kindly, Ireland-obsessed hairdresser (senior Erin Reiniga) to a local ladies’ man known as Kyle “The UPS Guy” (junior Greg Roman).
All this sounds like a good time, and it is, unless political incorrectness sets your teeth on edge. Don’t be deceived by Patricia Tiné’s pink scenery; there are plenty of references to sex, murder, and other bleak matters Legally Blonde. There’s also a song (about a minor character) with the refrain “Gay, or European?” Then again, the “Gay, or European?” song was executed with playfulness and good humor, as was pretty much everything else in the show. You shouldn’t really be offended by Legally Blonde. But if you bring a seven year-old, you might need to find a roundabout way to explain what a Playboy Bunny is.
Even though Columbia’s student actors seem to be enjoying themselves with this material, it’s easy to forget that this Legally Blonde is a high school production. Of course, a story about striving law students is nicely suited to high school juniors and seniors, some of whom will be striving through law school themselves in a matter of years. Yet there’s nothing amateurish about the way this story is told. Peter Bauer’s orchestra doesn’t hit a single jarring note. Moreover, the choreography by Tricia Benn and Patricia Pettigrew is better-conceived and better-executed than what I’ve seen in some professional musicals. Like Elle herself, this production doesn’t bog itself down with seriousness. And like Elle, this production turns out to be very smart in its own way.
Legally Blonde will be showing at Columbia High School this Saturday at 7:30 and this Sunday at 2:00. Next weekend, performances will take place at 7:30 on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16, and also at 2:00 on Sunday, March 17. Tickets are $10 if bought in advance, $15 if bought on the day of the show you wish to attend.