The grim reality of the making of ‘Legally Blonde’ the musical

November 3, 2015

By Paloma Yanez

The stage lights glimmer as the audience floods the Lund Theater awaiting the stars of “Legally Blond” but what most people don’t know is that the actors aren’t the only ones who should be in the spotlight.

The grandiosity of musical theater may seem glamorous, with “Legally Blonde” adding an additional level of glamour—with scenes set in sunny California and stately Harvard University. But don’t expect the sawdust covered and paint-scattered crew to share that sentiment.

The world that existed behind the flashy exterior of the musical was chaotic and messy. I entered the scene shop immediately greeted by large pieces of wood on the floor and loud noises from the machinery. The students were on their hands and knees working tirelessly, sweating and donning disheveled appearances. They executed their tasks with great precision, efficiency and enthusiasm. Their contributions to the show are crucial for the execution of the final performance. They are responsible for creating the visual elements that support the narrative.

The strenuous tasks were eased as individuals chatted and listened to music while working. Saw dust flew, hammers banged and sweat was wiped behind the scenes, contrary to the simple and elegant flow of the musical scenes on stage. The crewmembers reiterated feeling underappreciated regarding the nature of the exhausting manual labor. The scene shop was a testimony to the hard manual labor, which constituted the reality of this show. Without their work we would be looking at an empty stage.

Technical director, Bill Jenkins, keeps it all together.

“My job is to make sure all the technical aspects are ready at the same time the director, who’s working with the actors, is ready with the performers,” said Jenkins. “The real challenge is to take the amount of time that we have, which is generally about the same amount of time the actors have to rehearse the show, which I think in this case is 8 or 9 weeks. Our challenge is to make sure that we’re ready when they’re ready because the audience is coming on opening night and we’ve all got to be ready.”

Jenkins’ crew has a big challenge in staging “Legally Blonde.”

“All of our musicals are very big and have a lot of scenery, costumes, lighting and special effects,” he said. “We always try to give great value for your entertainment dollar when you come see our productions. Many people think our shows are as good as what you see in the professional theatres in town and I’m happy to agree with them. It’s one of the largest and most complex musicals we’ve ever done. I think we are going to have a great looking show. It’s got lots of singing and dancing and even a couple of dogs.”

The actors have also been hard at work.

Sophomore Annika Strolle is playing the villain, Vivienne Kensington.

“I have been obsessed with the Legally Blonde soundtrack ever since it came out, and I am a big fan of the movie,” said Strolle. “I love musical theatre and participating in musicals, so I was excited to have the chance to be in this one.”

Sophomore Tim Piotrowski plays one of the male leads, Warner Huntington III.

“As a theatre major I have to try out but also I just like theatre and doing shows so I would have auditioned no matter what show it was,” he said. “I think this show might be one of the biggest productions I have been in. There are a lot of sets and backdrops and so many pieces to this show. I don’t think people realize how much time goes into putting on a show and how little time we have to prepare.”

The musical is making its debut performance on November 13, in the Lund Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. and runs through November 15. Tickets are $17.