By Nina Kegelman || Contributing Writer
After months of exhaustive preparation, the F&M Players production of Legally Blonde ran last weekend. In this stage adaptation of the 2001 film of the same name, Julia Grumbine ‘21 stars as Elle Woods, the ambitious, bubbly, and popular president of UCLA’s Delta Nu sorority who ventures to Harvard Law School hoping to win back the love of her ex.
The show follows Elle as she, with the help of her chorus of sorority sisters, including delightfully spunky performances from Lily Noble ‘21, Maeve O’Brien ‘20, and Leah Finkelstein ‘18, applies to Harvard, struggles with snarky classmates, and discovers herself.
The first act concerns Elle in the aftermath of an unexpected breakup with Warner Huntington III, portrayed by Matt Henninger ‘18. Henniger’s smooth R&B style vocals and creative depiction of his character as a foolish and narcissistic hipster made his performance very enjoyable. He and Grumbine created a playful dynamic in the ups and downs of Warner and Elle’s relationship, which continued throughout the show.
At Harvard, Elle meets other law students, each of whom the actors represent through hilarious caricatures. Darby Lucius-Milliman ‘20 gives a truly engaging performance as Enid Hoopes, an intense liberal feminist, while Dina Spyroupoulus ‘21 skillfully portrays, Elle’s serious and preppy nemesis, Vivienne Kensington.
The set, though simplistic, served its purpose well. Interesting visual motifs such as the Delta Nu sisters’ candlelit chants make efficient use of the staircase and balcony pieces. The intimate lighting of Elle and Warner’s breakup in “Serious” and the eerie red wash in “Blood in the Water” were sophisticated artistic choices that helped form the moods of the scenes.
Act II, taking a more serious turn, introduces Brooke Wyndham (Bette Scher ‘21), whom Elle and the legal team must defend in a high stakes murder investigation. Scher’s demanding physical performance thrilled the audience as she sang while jumping rope in the number “Whipped Into Shape.” As Elle and the team struggle to prove Brooke’s innocence, fun numbers like “Bend and Snap” and “There! Right There!” had the audience laughing despite the suspense of the plot.
O’Gara captured the hearts of the audience as she whimsically sang about love and Ireland, flawlessly executed the “Bend and Snap,” and flirted with Paulette’s crush, the cool delivery man Kyle, hilariously portrayed by Daniel Rock ‘20. Her ease on stage and charming voice added an earnest dimension of affection to the show.
Prominent male leads Charles Romano as T.A. Emmett Forrest and Jack Norton as Professor Callahan balanced Grumbine’s perky and excitable Elle, engaging the audience as the conflict developed. Romano, with his serious yet encouraging demeanor as Emmett, progressed the character development of Elle while showing an impressive vocal range. Norton commanded the stage as Professor Callahan and smartly played the gradual reveal of Callahan as a sinister predator in his advances towards Elle.
Julia Grumbine’s performance as Elle is arguably the most impressive in the show. A demanding role with a great deal of content, Grumbine’s singing, dancing, and acting proved her a dedicated and multi-talented performer. A fresh take on the role of Elle, Grumbine embodied the high-spirited devotion and resourcefulness of the character, not reducing her to her girly naivete.
Aside from some minor technical blunders and muttered lines here and there, the show was very smooth and entertaining. The Players clearly have a great variety of skill sets and creative performers to work with going forward. From the energy and spunk of the sorority sisters to the vivacious courtroom ensemble, Legally Blonde proved the Players to be a talented troop with more spectacular productions in store.
First-year Nina Kegelman is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.