“Oh my God, oh my God, you guys,” Program Council and cast members from all five SMU colleges just pulled off the most incredible performance of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” with only 24 hours of rehearsal! It’s a feat worthy of many snaps from Elle Woods’ Snap Cup. The show’s spontaneous and almost crazed energy thrilled the audience with rowdy success. From the moment it began, we knew we could say we were in for a show that was just as certain to be exciting, as the “bend and snap” routine is guaranteed to make any (straight) guy swoon.
As 2:00 p.m. drew closer, students from all corners of campus literally began to run to join the crowds hurrying through the maze that we call Meadows. Following the distant cacophony, we found our way to the lengthy line outside of the doors to the Greer Garson Theatre. Choreographer Sam Weber flew past my friends and me just as the frenzied crowd surged forward after rumors spread that there weren’t going to be enough seats to host us all. We had all heard of the daring production’s 24-hour rehearsal. Many of us had physical proof of its grueling schedule in the form of received Snapchats from exhausted, but excited, friends in the cast and crew. The doors were flung open as we clamored for a seat, any seat at all.
The ensemble’s opening number, “Omigod” set the bar high with its exhilarating sorority house frenzy and Shannon Conboy played a perfect Elle Woods, drawing us all in as she waited expectantly in her signature pink dress for her longtime boyfriend Warner Huntington III, played expertly by Ta’Ron Middleton, to pop the magic question and get “Serious.”
Her romantic rival, Vivienne, played by Kaylyn Buckley, described getting ready for her second year in a 24-hour musical as “a whirlwind where the limited time makes you make bold choices and just go for it.” The cast auditioned just before spring break and learned all of their lines over the holiday week. However, all of the choreography and blocking was done in a 15-hour rehearsal yesterday. “It was all so fast and furious and the cast bonded really quickly,” gushed Buckley after the show.
Ensemble dancer Kayla Goldberg explained how every minute of the rehearsal was carefully planned so that there was not an idle moment: “‘Blood in the Water’ and ‘Positive’ were both taught at the same time in different sections of the rehearsal room. It was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done in my life but it was so much fun.”
Program Council Director Laura Sullivan shed some light on the behind-the-scenes. “Honestly, preparation is what allows a 24-hour musical to be a 24-hour musical. The creative team has been working on this since May 2015 to ensure the production got off its feet such that when the cast was chosen, they had all the tools they needed to succeed. But,” she added sincerely, “nothing would have happened without the amazingly motivated cast we got to work with. Their level of excitement and eagerness made it easy to create a great production! I guess the secret is keeping up the energy, positivity, and happiness even when it’s the 14th straight hour of rehearsal.”
Adrenaline coursed through the theater as the middle of the show brought us crazy backflips, splits, and defendant Brooke Wyndam’s (played by Laura Dupper) tricky choreography with jump ropes, setting “Whipped Into Shape” and large ensemble number “Bend and Snap” apart. One of the shining qualities in this production was that while each song number was sharply different than the last, they seamlessly pulled themes from one another. Blair Betik, starring as hairdresser Paulette, echoed the “whirlwind” sentiment of her cast members by adding, “Although I’ve done theater since I was seven years old, this was the most magical experience ever.” Jacqui Jacoby, an ensemble member, said that she had “actually never even seen a musical before, let alone been in one, so I was thankful for how welcoming [the cast] was. It has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve had in college.”
“There Right There” gave words to the conundrum that plagues every girl while studying abroad: “Is he gay or European?” Nick Miller, suavely playing Professor Callahan, elicited every outraged emotion with his treachery in the later scenes while Parker Gray shone as sincere and hardworking Emmett. Other notable quirky characters were Austin Flanagan, who wowed as Paulette’s humorous, sexy mailman love interest, and Elle’s raunchy but supportive sorority sisters, played by Amy Cooley, Jennie Lee, Lauren Steele, and Amelia Eskridge. Music Director Esther Lim added that this year’s 24-hour Musical was the first time that the show was done with live music instead of a recording. “It’s the musicians that make it happen, I just wave my baton around,” she said modestly. “My favorite part is actually at the end of the performance when we get to see how happy we’ve made the audience.”
The show closed with a powerful salute to girl power as Elle Woods takes her career dreams and love life into her own hands, becomes Harvard Law’s valedictorian, and swaps gender norms to propose to Emmett, the man who “saw the potential of the mind inside the blonde.” The cast and crew of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” gave a final bow to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from a full house. It was a true success with raving reviews across campus. My congratulations to the talented cast of Program Council’s 24-Hour Musical, we can’t wait to see what you do with the 2017 24-Hour Musical!
P.S. Curious to know Which “Legally Blonde” character you’d be? As always: Buzzfeed knows
*Originally written for SMU Odyssey on March 28 2016