GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Gas Lamp Players/Teens are set to stage four performances of the musical “Legally Blonde” next week at Ridgewood Avenue School. The show is being directed by Gas Lamp Artistic Director Kristy Graves.
According to Graves in an interview earlier this week, she and Glen Ridge resident Heather Ballantyne had chosen “Legally Blonde” with the thought of co-directing it. At the same time, they would also be co-directing the Gas Lamp Players/Juniors in “Elf Jr.” for performances at the start of December. Both shows are now being rehearsed. However, Graves is working alone while Ballantyne has been joined by Erin Dilly for “Elf Jr.”
“I was going to help her with ‘Elf Jr.’ but we decided to divide and conquer,” Graves said. “She thought ‘Legally Blonde’ would be a great show. The kids go crazy for it.”
“Legally Blonde,” Graves said, is a difficult show to perform.
“It’s like an operetta,” she said. “The vocals are very demanding. You need ‘chops’ to sing them. The piano goes non-stop and there is dance number after dance number. And the dances have to be presented well to work.”
The cast for “Legally Blonde” is large: 14 boys and 34 girls, ages 13 to 18.
Graves said what makes the show attract so large a female cast is that “Legally Blonde” is about girls who are as hyper and “girlie” as girls can get. This irreverent effervescence is set against the backdrop of Harvard University Law School.
The musical, based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, opened on Broadway on April 27, 2007, and closed Oct. 19, 2008, after 595 performances.
The story is about a young woman, Elle Woods, who follows her ex-boyfriend from California to Harvard in an attempt to win him back. She manages to get herself enrolled in the law school where she discovers herself and a new love. The role of Elle was originated on Broadway by Laura Bell Bundy who was recently seen as Trixie Norton in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of “The Honeymooners.”
Graves said the girls cast for the show have an opportunity to play characters whose qualities they would not normally play.
“The show brings out fervor and fire,” she said. “They bring it to the stage in a level I’ve never seen before.”
There are some great dancers in the show that is being choreographed by Lisa Grimes, Graves said. The regular Gas Lamp music director, Marsha Scheier, was not available but has been ably replaced by Jess Glover.
“She’s unbelievable,” she said of Glover.
“Legally Blonde” will have two Elles. They are 14-year-old Dahlia Reynolds, a Montclair resident, and 16-year-old Francesca Catrone, from Little Falls. Graves said both girls are very different performers with different strengths. Dahlia, a private student of Graves, has been in Gas Lamp performances before.
“At the audition, she just lit up the room,” Graves said. “She totally blew me away. She encapsulates Elle. She brings her to the stage. You fall in love with her.”
Francesca, she said, is a great dancer and an excellent singer.
“I told them to learn from each other but don’t copy,” Graves said. “And they’re doing it. But they are not competitive. They’re stepping it up.”
Graves said Elle’s ex-boyfriend, played by Montclair resident Elias Lapore, is someone with big plans for himself. He dumps Elle before heading off to law school because she is only a Marilyn, as in Marilyn Monroe, while his future needs a Jackie, as in Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
Although the cast is large, everyone has at least one speaking role as well as being part of the ensemble. The scope of the production does not stop there.
“There are tons of scene changes,” Graves said. “I haven’t even counted. It’s a very challenging show, set-wise. There’s an iconic sorority house three stories high. There are faces in all the windows.”
“Legally Blonde” will be performed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17, 18 and 19. Curtain times are: Friday, 7 p.m., Saturday, 1 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. An admission fee will be charged.