As a theater director, even in the high school setting, Kevin Wade tends to gravitate to dark, dense material for actors to sink their teeth into. This time around, thought, he felt that is not what the community needed.
“I wanted to do something light and fun that still has a great message and great morals,” Wade said. “It will give everyone a chance to laugh and cheer together in community as our first show back.”
Sun Valley Community School will return to the stage after a year and a half to perform “Legally Blonde” Nov. 4-6.
This award-winning musical is based on the iconic movie starring Reese Witherspoon, which came out before any of the students at the Community School were born. Do you feel old yet?
It tells the story of Elle Woods, a UCLA sorority girl who thinks she has it all until her boyfriend breaks up with her and goes to Harvard. She chases him across the country and charms her way into the law school. What starts as a mission to win him back turns into a journey of self-discovery.
Beneath the frivolity, Wade sees depth. He says one of the major themes is “No matter who you are, it’s always best to be yourself.”
Wade says it took everyone a little while to get back in the swing of things after not putting on a production for so long. But now, they are ready. The students wore masks while rehearsing, which could be straining with the intense cardio of Megan Mahoney’s choreography.
“There are several large, fast, and detailed dance numbers,” Mahoney said.
Due to the students’ busy schedules, they had to compress the rehearsal process. And because the Community School is so small, students are asked to wear many hats.
“We ask all of our kids to do everything in order to fill our programs,” Wade said.
Many of the performers in “Legally Blonde” also participate in hockey, volleyball, soccer, dance, and other activities. Despite this, they had to rehearse 25-30 hours a week.
“[It’s] a lot to ask of these kids, but they’ve handled it really, really well,” Wade said.
They made a few cuts to the script to be certain that it is appropriate for all ages. Also, they changed some language they considered antiquated.
“We trimmed down some of that stuff just to make sure we’re not putting anything on the stage that’s going to alienate anybody, marginalize anybody and [it] feels really inclusive and able to be celebrated,” Wade said.
Wade’s favorite song in the show is the title track, a somber moment for Elle after she faces a series of setbacks.
“I’m a sucker for a great ballad,” Wade said.
The “Legally Blonde (Remix)” immediately follows, which is a hard-rocking, popped-out version of the ballad that gets Elle back in the courtroom in a strong way. It involves the whole company and is a crowd favorite.
Mahoney’s favorite number is “What You Want (Part 2),” a nearly three-minute long dance break filled with pom-style hip hop and jazz.
“I was nervous it was going to overwhelm some of them because of the difficult choreography, but they have all risen to the occasion and then some,” Mahoney said. “Their energy that first day blew me away, and it reminded me just how much I love choreographing for this age group.”
Through this process, Wade wants the students to gain self confidence and trust in their peers.
“Success is a subjective thing,” Wade said. “Its definition is going to change throughout your life. What it really means is that you’re happy with who you are and doing what you do.”
Mahoney says theater can shape kids into accountable, capable adults.
“Participating in a musical is a wonderful experience because it teaches students dedication, hard work, vulnerability, compassion, leadership, collaboration, time management, and how to come back from disappointment,” she said.
The performers will not wear masks during the show. The Sun Valley Community School requires those attending to wear masks as well as go through a brief COVID screening upon entering.
More than anything else, Wade hopes those who attend have a good laugh.
“I’m just excited to bring people together as a community in our space again for the first time in a year and a half,” Wade said. “The exchange of energy between actor and audience one more time--that’s a special thing.”
Visit the Community School website for more information. All shows are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults. Don’t wait too long--at press deadline, Friday was already sold out.
“There is something truly magical about sitting down in a darkened theater and escaping into a story for two hours,” Mahoney said. ￼