Clay White admits he felt some pressure to raise the bar with Denton Community Theatre’s Legally Blonde.
White earned an armload of awards for the company’s 2012 summer staging of Hairspray and then racked up more awards for the 2013 staging of Monty Python’s Spamalot for Greater Lewisville Community Theatre from The Column, a Dallas-Fort Worth theater blog.
For White to feel good about Legally Blonde this weekend, the director said the fast-paced musical comedy has to run like the proverbial well-oiled machine. If that machine were pink and sparkly.
“It’s a very big show,” White said. “It was the first show I ever saw on Broadway. It has huge choreography numbers, we’ve got a golf cart onstage and two dogs. I definitely felt some pressure. When I’m working with community theater, I still want everything to look really good, professional, really polished. You can do it.”
Legally Blonde is based on the 2001 blockbuster film starring Reese Witherspoon. Elle Woods is a Zeta Nu sister with Malibu Barbie good looks and eyes only for one fraternity dreamboat: Warner. Elle is all set to start picking china patterns for her gotta-happen nuptials when Warner dumps her. Warner insists he can’t marry Elle: If he wants to be a senator by the time he’s 30, he needs “a Jackie, not a Marilyn.”
Stunned and beyond heartbroken, Elle decides to follow Warner to Harvard Law School. Maybe a makeover (from bombshell to attorney-chic) will show the one who got away that she might be a bubbly blonde, but she can be serious.
Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Heather Hach adapted the film to a musical made up mostly of bright, upbeat numbers. The musical is true to the movie, but fleshes out the role of newly minted lawyer Emmett as a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who means to lift his mom out of poverty with his courtroom successes.
White said Elle Woods became a cinema and stage sweetheart because she’s more than a pretty face and fashion plate.
“I think she has the heart of a a sorority girl — everything is pink and sparkly,” he said. “But she’s had a heartbreak, and that makes her relatable.”
Legally Blonde also appeals to audiences because it preaches the gospel of being yourself and stretching your capabilities. Elle Woods isn’t a natural fit for Harvard Law, and she hasn’t concerned herself with deep moral quandaries until she surprises everyone — and herself — by earning a coveted internship with the fierce Professor Callahan.
White said Denton Community Theatre’s auditions drew 107 hopefuls, and the directorial team put the women through rigorous auditions to find Elle. The team cast recent Texas Woman’s University graduate Kristi Smith as Elle, who only leaves the stage in 20-second costume changes. Grace Neeley nearly outsings Smith as Vivian Kensington, the Jackie O to Warner’s JFK.
“The biggest challenge is to get all the pieces to fit in an organized way,” White said. “You have to divide up all the chores. The cast is doing almost all of the set changes. And I have a great team.”
Jaqueline Butt is the production’s choreographer, and Rebecca Lowry is the musical director and pianist. Derek Whitner and Victor Newman Brockwell designed the costumes.
What: Denton Community Theatre presents the musical comedy by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Heather Hach, based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon.
When: 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday and Aug. 15-16, and 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 17
Where: Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St.
Details: Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors 62 and older, and $10 for children and students with a valid ID. For tickets, visit the website or call 940-382-1915.
On the Web: www.dentoncommunitytheatre.com