OMG, Aspen High School to stage ‘Legally Blonde’
If You Go …
What: ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’
Where: Aspen District Theatre
When: Friday, March 4, 7 p.m.; Saturday, March 5, 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 6, 2 p.m.
How much: $10/students; $15/adults
The story of a young woman overcoming stereotypes and superficial assumptions would seem a perfect fit for a high school musical production. Yet the Broadway hit “Legally Blonde” gave theater teacher Logan Carter pause.
As she prepared for Aspen High School’s production of “Legally Blonde,” Carter found herself censoring the script and taming potentially inappropriate language. Eventually, as she considered the lessons of the Broadway hit, she stopped cutting and went ahead with what she’s deemed a PG-13 show.
Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon film, the musical comedy tells the story of Elle Woods, a pink-clad, California sorority girl, as she defies expectations and destroys the dumb-blonde assumptions about her at Harvard Law School.
The empowering message, Carter said, was spot-on for her teen students. But she was skittish about some sexual references and derogatory slang. There’s also a rasta-themed keg party (the “Spring Fling Beer Bash Extreme!”), some slightly off-color humor, words like “skank” and the song “There! Right There!” about determining whether a guy is gay or European.
It’s relatively tame stuff, but in the context of her high school productions, Carter leans on the conservative side.
“I started cutting and cutting and cutting, but at the end of the day I realized that the story didn’t even make sense anymore,” she said at Monday night’s rehearsal. “I had cut the meaning of the story, which is about overcoming judgments. We can’t tell that story unless we show the judgments.”
Her teen cast also nudged her toward inclusion.
“The kids had to convince me,” she said. “They were listening to the scenes and realizing it didn’t make sense, and they were like, ‘Logan, why should we be embarrassed to say “lesbian”? Why should we cut that? Doesn’t that go against the message of what Elle stands for?’”
Coming off of last year’s ambitious staging of the classic “Singin’ in the Rain,” Carter wanted students to tackle something on the opposite end of the theatrical spectrum. The contemporary “Legally Blonde,” with its bright pop music and choreography, and its more current sense of humor, fit the bill. The show features a cast of 37, led by senior Talitha McDougall Jones as Elle.
“She’s nailing it,” Carter said. “She’s not Elle Woods in real life. She’s not a bubbly blonde. But she has really strong acting chops and I knew she’d be up for a challenge.”
The show also includes a live dog as Elle’s beloved Bruiser and cameos by Aspen High college counselor Kathy Klug and principal Tharyn Mulberry.
“They’re hilarious,” Carter said.
On Monday night, Klug and Mulberry dutifully practiced their lines offstage before their big scene, as the cast ran through the ecstatic opener, “Omigod You Guys,” in which Elle and her sorority sisters prepare for what they think will be a marriage proposal from her boyfriend.
The administrators play a pair of snooty Harvard Law School admissions officers, who Elle attempts to win over with a show-stopper of a number — “What You Want” — in which Elle appears as a sparkle-clad drum major leading a color guard and cheerleading team through the Aspen District Theatre aisles and onto the stage.
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