Omigod Durango, grab your finest pink tops and glitter-studded accessories and head over to Durango High School at 7 tonight (and the next two weekends) for an undeniably fun opening of “Legally Blonde” the musical. But seriously.
For those who haven’t seen the 2001 film, this is the story of Elle Woods, perky blonde president of the UCLA Delta Nu sorority, who follows her pretentious ex-boyfriend to Harvard in an attempt to prove that she too can be “serious” and thereby win him back. Of course, things never go as planned, and Elle runs into obstacles along the way, always managing to maintain, or at least regain, her optimism and sense of self-worth throughout.
“Elle Woods is an inspiration,” said Benjamin Mattson, the new theater instructor at DHS. “She loses herself in the myth of ‘love,’ sacrificing who she is in pursuit of it, only to learn the power of celebrating your authentic self.”
Audiences should note that, despite its noble message, the content is not all necessarily G-rated. This is, after all, the tale of a sorority sister from Los Angeles. And though she may be at Harvard, college students in general are not exactly known for their clean language and prudent dress habits. It’s still a high school production, though, so despite a few, well, interesting costume choices and the occasional suggestive reference, nothing gets too out of hand.
Mattson addressed the sometimes risqué content, saying that it “is essential to the style and integrity of the production. The overall heart and message of the show far surpasses the ‘color’ provided by its sometimes salacious campiness.”
As for those who still aren’t convinced they should go see a show starring a pink-loving, sorority-leading, fashion-forward, singing, blonde law student, at least consider that if nothing else, this is a fun, light-hearted escape from everyday stresses and pressures. It’s pure entertainment with a positive message. Also, if none of this is persuasive, many will be drawn by the simple fact that there are two live dogs, one playing Elle’s little lap-dog Bruiser, and Paulette the spunky hair dresser’s stolen dog, Rufus.
So how exactly did a bunch of DHS student come to choose a show that is so polar opposite of everything Durango? Sororities? Department stores? Pompous law students and arrogant professors? So much pink?
“The troupe knew that they had a significant amount of strong female performers and extremely talented technical students,” Mattson explained. “They wanted to pick a show that really showcased their strengths but felt thematically different from ‘Les Miserables.’”
Well, this is definitely no “Les Mis,” and no one is ever likely to accuse “Legally Blonde” of being a classic. It does however showcase a number of strong female leads, and leaves a lot of room for technical creativity, which the Durango theater students had fun with.
Watching their performances, it’s clear the students love the show. Despite a few expected little hiccups during a dress rehearsal, each performer brings his or her best to the stage.
“It’s a huge show, requiring an amazing level of focus and stamina,” Mattson said. “Between all the scene shifts, costume changes and the lightning pace of the show, there’s barely time for anyone to breath! What masquerades as light and fun on the outside is an exhausting roller-coaster on the inside.”
Mattson and the students all have high hopes that their energy and dedication will pay off again this year at the Bobby G Awards, a state-wide musical theater competition for high schools. Last year, two Durango seniors won best lead actor and best lead actress for their performances in “Les Miserables,” which also won the Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical Award.
Mattson explained that “Winners may go to the “Jimmy Awards” in New York City this summer, where they will perform on a Broadway stage and participate in a national award ceremony.”
This is Mattson’s first year working with the Durango theater troupe. He pointed out that although the students chose this show before he arrived, there is a significant parallel for him between his own story and Elle’s story in the show.
“Taking on this new job at DHS came with high expectations and a pressure to ‘fit the mold’ or ‘fill the shoes’ that came before me,” Mattson explained. “Elle reminds me that my greatest strength is me, and when I rely on being authentically myself, I know that my passion, care and focus is at its highest.”