Legally Blonde hits the stage

Students perform the musical adaptation of the famous book and film Legally Blonde for audiences in W&L’s Keller Theatre


Photos from the Legally Blonde performance March 10-14. Photos courtesy of Legally Blonde cast.

Alexandra Cline

Washington and Lee student performers recently broke out their best pink attire and belted the familiar tunes of “Omigod You Guys” in this year’s exuberant Bentley musical: Legally Blonde.

From March 10-14, the cast performed for the W&L community and the public alike in Keller Theatre under the direction of Rob Mish, an adjunct member of the theater faculty.

The musical’s storyline follows college student Elle Woods on her journey to win back the love of her ex-boyfriend, prompting her to enroll at Harvard Law School.  In the process, however, she discovers her own intelligence and independence without compromising her true character.

“We knew we had a huge talent pool of amazing women right now, which definitely suits this musical,” Mish said. “Since our earlier production of Spamelot was male-heavy, we wanted to have a production that focused on strong women who didn’t need men to save the day.”

Aside from the play’s clear applicability to W&L, including its setting in an educational institution with an influential Greek life presence, Mish also chose the musical for its musicality and overall liveliness.

“It has very energetic and bright music but also some touching moments,” Mish said. “We wanted something musically challenging and that would fit well with the student body and performers.

For the casting, Mish sought leads who possessed a combination of singing, dancing and acting skills.

Some of the leads included Madeleine Sullivan, ‘16, as Elle Woods, Joe Kimbell, ‘17, as Warner Huntington III, Megan Steel, ‘18, as Vivian Kensington and Jake Burnett, ‘17, as Emmett Richmond.

“It’s such a privilege to get to work with such a talented and diverse group of people,” said Hannah Dewing, ‘19, who played the roles of Winthrop and DA Joyce Riley. “Getting to perform it with 30 new friends just makes it that much better.”

With the numerous moving parts of the musical and its 32 cast members, the sheer volume of actors on the stage combined with the dozens of set changes posed the greatest challenge for the cast and crew.    

“With 32 warm-blooded cast members and each with an individual microphone, we have to make sure everyone can be heard over the orchestra,” Mish said. “Since we only use a few sets more than once, there are also big set pieces to be moved during the show.”

One of these detailed sets featured the hair salon, where Elle befriends Irish stylist Paulette, played by Dana Gray, ‘18, who encourages the bubbly but heartbroken Elle to continue school and pursue her dreams.

“My favorite part, if I had to choose, would probably be the ballad sung by Paulette,” Mish said. “She’s talking about a dream she’ll never get, so she transfers that onto Elle, and it certainly inspires her.”

For many of the cast members, the bond depicted on stage between the characters translated to real life and encouraged greater friendships among the actors.

“We’ve all become [closer] over this past semester, which would have never happened without Legally Blonde,” Dewing said. “The show is so much fun to perform together.”

The excitement and enthusiasm felt on stage by the actors translated into their performances and created a lively atmosphere filled with laughter, according to some theatergoers.

“The cast had outstanding stage presence and chemistry that rivaled that of the actual Broadway show,” Kirsten McMichael, ‘19, said. “It seemed as if they were enjoying it as much as the audience was, but maybe I’m just biased because I’m blonde.”