It was only a Saturday rehearsal, but already the stage was shining brightly, lit by the talent at Tabor Academy, as students continue to prepare for the opening night of Legally Blonde: The Musical, running from February 20through 22.
The talent is bright and new, literally, with 30 of the 41 actors taking to the stage for the very first time, pushing themselves to the limit as some of them discover, much to their surprise, the talent and determination they never knew they had.
“I was really surprised I got it,” said Megane Mongrain, speaking about landing the show’s leading role as the smart, sexy Elle Woods. Elle is the essential Valley Girl who has been dumped by her Harvard-bound boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, because he wants a more “serious” woman. To prove she is serious, Elle schemes to get herself into Harvard Law School, the main setting for the musical.
“I thought I was going to be Brooke,” said Mongrain. Brooke – a significant role in the musical, but not the lead – is the fitness guru who is later tried for murder and defended by Elle.
Mongrain said that when she opened the casting book and saw she had been given the role, she shut the book, opened it again, looked, and repeated the gesture.
“I never had a main role,” said Mongrain, “especially Elle who is in almost every scene.”
A challenging role? You bet. Mongrain said singing the part of Elle has actually changed her voice, but all for the better.
“I got this voice I didn’t know was in me,” she said.
Mongrain is not the only one to find her talent developing and unfolding as a result of performing in the production. Others have also confessed they weren’t sure they were up for the challenging musical, and some never even set foot on a stage before November when Director Mark Howland held the tryouts and rehearsals began.
Matthew Tracy had always been into sports like football and hockey and never considered himself to be the drama-type until recently when he decided he would try something new and see where it landed him.
“I thought I was going to be, like, a tree in the background,” said Tracy. Tracy had never sung on a stage before, let alone sing a solo, which he has to do as one of the leading male roles, Warner, Elle’s ex-boyfriend whom she chases to Harvard. Acting, said Tracy who describes himself as outgoing, came easily to him. But singing…
“I’ve never done that in my whole life,” said Tracy.
Marco Delvecchio can relate to that, having been primarily an athlete himself. Delvecchio has four roles in the musical, one of them more significant than the others, as Kyle, the UPS guy.
“Kyle is the sexy delivery man who is instantly attracted to the not-so-sexy Paulette,” said Delveccio. “He is not the type of guy you would expect to be like that.”
Delveccio fits the part, which calls for a lot of showing-off of his athletic “physique,” (think big biceps), and he had played some minor roles in a couple productions when he attended Bishop Hendricken High School in Rhode Island. Tabor proved to be a much different experience for him.
“It’s very professional here at Tabor,” said Delvecchio, admitting that the singing aspect of playing Kyle has been challenging, to say the least, although acting came easily to him.
“Everything’s so precise in a musical,” described Delvecchio. “You can’t miss a single key.”
Howland has been there throughout the whole process, though, directing the students and cultivating their talents.
Spencer Huang, cast as the role of Emmett Forrest, the second male leading role in the show, said Howland has been integral to his transformation over the past several months. What was the most challenging part of this performance for Huang?
“The dancing,” said Huang, adding that the singing has also tested him. “Emmett has a higher voice range and I’m a bass. So that’s been tough.”
Music Director David Horne has been coaching the students, giving voice lessons and assisting the students with the songs.
Behind the stage, a heck of a lot is going on too, and the student-driven crew is really bringing the production to life.
Stage Manager/Student Director Julia O’ Rourke sat in the middle aisle of the auditorium with her clipboard and pen, watching the actors rehearse while the lighting crew worked around them.
“This has been great,” said O’ Rourke, describing her role as “a musical secretary” of sorts. “And I think everyone is into it because [Legally Blonde] is more of a modern musical.”
Lighting designer Grace Fors said she is no performer, so she sticks to working behind the scenes.
“Performing is not my thing,” said Fors, happy to be on the sidelines. “There’s little recognition, but it’s very rewarding.”
Still about two weeks away from the premier, the cast of Legally Blonde already owns the stage; singing out their lines with a tenacity to get it done perfectly with their director on-hand as they ran through the entire musical, start to finish.
The performance is quite the spectacle, with a lot of very upbeat dancing, including tossing Elle into the air a few times, funny dialogue, and a lot of surprises to make you smile and applaud.
Do not miss this show! The performances will be held in the Fireman Auditorium at Hoyt Hall, February 20 – 22 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door.
By Jean Perry