Weekender

The Penn State Thespians present ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’

Elizabeth Armstrong, left, plays Paulette Bonafonte and Morgan Sichler plays Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde.”
Elizabeth Armstrong, left, plays Paulette Bonafonte and Morgan Sichler plays Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde.” Photo provided

This spring, more than half of the Penn State Thespians voted “Legally Blonde: The Musical” as their top choice to perform for the upcoming year. Now, the production has come to life on the Schwab Auditorium stage.

Based on the novel “Legally Blonde” by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” follows the journey of upbeat sorority girl Elle Woods. When her boyfriend Warner dumps her because she’s not “serious,” Elle leaves behind her glamorous life and decides to attend Harvard Law to win back her man.

The Penn State Thespians production is directed by Monica Mazel and produced by Matt Schiffman. The “Legally Blonde” cast features Morgan Sichler as Elle, Connor Smith as Emmett, Douglas Michie as Warner, Elizabeth Armstrong as Paulette, Paul Kane as Callahan, Caroline Kelley as Brooke and many more.

With the help of new friends and foes, Elle realizes her true potential and sets out to prove herself to the world, rather than chasing after a man. Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle Woods, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations while staying true to herself.

“I absolutely love playing Elle Woods!” Sichler said. “She is a joy to play onstage because we share a lot about each other. We are both very positive people. Whenever I’m in a negative situation, I always try to find the bright side and she does too.”

A senior at Penn State, majoring in music education and minoring in theater, Sichler grew up in State College and has been doing musical theater since elementary school.

“I was very quiet growing up, and music and theater was a way to really express myself,” she said. “When I’m happy I sing, and when I’m sad I sing. Music is a way of expressing things that just can’t be said.”

Smith, a senior at Penn State in broadcast journalism, will play the role of Emmett. Emmett is a law teaching assistant at Harvard Law under Professor Callahan. To cheer Emmett up and to increase his chances of impressing Callahan, Elle gives him a makeover. Later on, Emmett realizes that he is in love with Elle.

“At the beginning, his initial goal is to work his way up to become Callahan’s associate,” Smith said. “But throughout the show, Elle helps him find the confidence in himself. I can relate to Emmett a lot — we’re both a tad socially awkward but driven and passionate as well.”

Each spring, members of the Penn State Thespians have the option to propose shows for the upcoming year. A committee narrows the show proposals down to the five most suitable ones, and then the club votes from there. More than half of the club selected “Legally Blonde” as their top choice out of the five shows.

“This showed me that the club is so passionate and excited about this show and that if I got the position of director, I couldn’t let them down,” Mazel said. “Something special about this show is how actively involved the cast is on stage. There is only one number in the whole show with less than five people on stage. Although this has been a challenge, this has provided the actors to flourish as performers and the cast has ample amounts of stage time and many opportunities to play various different characters.”

The production process for “Legally Blonde” has been very time-consuming, but rewarding for the cast and creative team. In mid-July, Mazel received the position of director and spent the summer working with the producer and technical director in pre-production: solidifying her vision, selecting their production staff, and coordinating auditions.

“It has been a very stressful process because on top of my rehearsals, I have several different weekly production meetings,” she said. “ ‘Legally Blonde’ has been taking over my entire semester, but I love the show so much that I couldn’t be happier about it.”

“ ‘Legally Blonde’ has been such a positive experience and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Smith said. “Everyone’s having a great time and I feel so connected with the cast and production staff.”

The overarching theme in “Legally Blonde” is staying true to yourself. Throughout her journey, Elle rarely loses sight of who she is and continues to pursue her dreams, even while facing stereotypes, snobbery and scandal.

“During the few moments where she does question herself or her abilities, her friends help her overcome this doubt by reminding her that she shines for who she truly is,” Mazel said. “One of my favorite quotes from the musical, spoken by the character of Vivienne, is that ‘being true to yourself never goes out of style.’ ”

“The moral of the story is to ‘not judge a book by its cover,’ ” Sichler said. “Just because Elle is blonde and madly in love with Warner, doesn’t mean that she’s not smart or doesn’t have the potential to be a great lawyer. Elle goes to Harvard to find love, but ends up finding herself instead.”

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