Blonde-haired beauty Elle Woods is strutting her pink pumps from Harvard Law School to Ohio State for the next two weekends in Off The Lake Production’s “Legally Blonde The Musical.”
“Legally Blonde The Musical,” originally a Broadway adaptation of 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, tells the story of a charismatic sorority girl named Elle Woods who chases her college boyfriend to Harvard Law School.
While many people are familiar with the movie, music director Brittany von Stein, a fourth-year in music education, hopes OTL will bring a new dynamic to the performance.
“Within OTL we have this quality of realness, of raw talent,” von Stein said. “It just seems believable. It’s easy to see through the fakeness in musicals. But in this production, there are people on stage telling us their life stories.”
Director Brianna Stack, a third-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, said there’s challenges that come with taking the show from on screen to the stage.
“In the movie, it’s set in a very real world. You can go and film at a university like Harvard, but on stage, you can’t do all of that. There are a bunch of different conventions that get broken and there are different ways that characters are involved in the story,” Stack said.
OTL members said they faced a number of challenges with this production, including limited space, a large cast and a vocally demanding score.
“We had 128 people audition,” von Stein said. “There was just so much talent that it was hard to narrow it down to only 55 which is still a huge number.”
“We’ve never had such a vocally intense show,” Stack said. “It’s so focused on belting (the songs). We’ve really worked with having the performers learn about their voices and pushing the limits of all of their talents.”
The cast has been preparing for the show ever since auditions were held before winter break, and have continued to practice three days a week, three hours a night, von Stein said.
Through song, dance and witty banter, Elle Woods, played by third-year in sociology Suzanne Magazzeni, must overcome what others perceive her to be and prove her own self-worth.
“It’s definitely more demanding to bring a bigger presence to the stage,” Magazzeni said. “I have to put in a lot more outside time to develop the character and think a lot more about her motives and her intentions for doing certain things.”
Magazzeni describes the high energy level it takes to play Elle, noting that her character is virtually onstage the entirety of the show.
“There are a ton of costume changes and dance numbers so it’s a very physically and vocally demanding show,” she said. “(Elle) has to be larger than life and just embodying that takes a lot of energy.”
Creating dance numbers is also a time-consuming process, said OTL’s choreographer Brad Bozzo, a second-year in psychology.
“Choreography needs to help tell the story and give a personality to the movement,” Bozzo said. “I think about what I want the character’s motivation to be through the dancing.”
Bozzo’s process of creating dances is spontaneous.
“A lot of it blossoms out of nowhere,” he said. “I try and become really familiar with the soundtrack and just think, ‘Well, how does this song make somebody want to dance — peppy and snappy, or slinky and smooth?’ In thinking about that, I look to what other people have done and try to incorporate my own style into the dance.”
Although he said the musical doesn’t fit into a specific category of dance, Bozzo describes the overall style as “hip-hop mixed with jazz dance.”
Both the cast and production team hope the audience will enjoy the liveliness of the show, but they also hope the musical’s moral transcends past the stage and relates to issues prevalent in society.
“The show points out a lot of stereotypes and I want people to see that they are more than just their looks,” Magazzeni said. “I know tons of people have seen the movie, but I hope with this, they really see (Elle’s) character arc. She is more than just a pretty blonde and I hope they see that in her, and just see more in people than their stereotypes.”
Founded in 1997, Off the Lake Productions is Ohio State’s only student-run musical theatre and service organization. Sponsored by university housing, Off the Lake is named after its first performance space, Browning Amphitheater, just off of Mirror Lake. The group has since relocated to Hitchcock Hall. Last year, Off the Lake’s spring musical, “Pippin” raised 1,327 pounds of canned goods and $547 for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. “Legally Blonde The Musical” will be Off The Lake’s 19th spring musical.
Performances of “Legally Blonde” will be held in Hitchcock Hall 131 on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., and March 6-7 at 8 p.m. Admission is $1 or one canned good.