Bwog Staffers detail a thorough review of CMTS’s latest production in a moment-by-moment walkthrough!

Congratulations to CMTS for putting up the first musical to ever sell out and create a waitlist in Roone Arledge Auditorium! “What, like it’s hard?” Legally Blonde, a hit with ticket sales, was produced by Jennie Yu (BC ‘22) and Emily Ndiokho (BC ‘22), directed by Ilana Woldenberg (BC ‘20), and music directed by Megan Trach (BC ’20) and Seth Schultheis (MSM ’22).

The music filled the room with iconic songs like “Survivor” and “I Want It That Way” to get the vibe going. People filled the seats. Excitement and chatter filled the air. 

The lights finally went dark. The curtains opened. There jumped out a line of all women in a shrill of high-pitched voices. 

The sound issues fused all of the girls’ voices into a noise that was troublesome to decipher. However, in an effort to give the show a better chance at a first impression, I waited for the reveal of none other than the President of Delta Nu: Elle Woods, played by Genevieve Joers (CC ‘20). Elle Woods’ appearance did garner audience applause. She came out in a perfect Elle Woods costume: all pink. Her voice was stunning and distinctive, a true lead to the musical. She genuinely resembled Reese Witherspoon, and the voice was distinctly clear and pitched to Elle Woods perfection. The show certainly got better as it went on, even though sound caused an issue from the very start before Elle’s appearance. 

 The moment Warner Huntington III, played by Wesley Schmidt (CC ‘22), came out, I thought for a split second Zac Efron was before my very eyes, and his facial expressions were everything. His pour of San Pellegrino as pretend champagne was so college. Lindsey Belisle (BC ‘23) as Margot was also a standout as a non-lead. Her eye contact with the audience and energy in her choreography brought the live to live performance. 

The show continued on, and the set revealed a giant crimson “H,” landing us at Harvard. Emmett, played by Harris Solomon (CC ‘22), was a standout actor and character on stage. His acting played on the audience’s hearts, especially speaking to the struggle of college students. Beyond that, he simply played Emmett, hardworking Harvard Law boy. He contrasted the stereotypical Harvard Law pomposity that Warner portrayed.

The choreography by the Delta Nu girls throughout the production had a college twist to it, reminding me of the choreography of dance crews on campus. “What You Want” was sung by Elle and Company, and was one of the best numbers, especially in terms of the dance performance. Surya Buddharaju’s rapid-fire questioning of what Elle wants sounded like a rap, giving the song extra energy. I have to give a shout out to the guy doing push-ups during that song, you were certainly easy on the eyes.

Where the show lacked was not in individuals but cohesiveness in terms of energy. The purpose of a live performance is to bring a show alive, and the energy was not brought strong by everyone even if it was by individuals. Musicals have brought me near tears of joy at the end of scenes because the energy was felt throughout the room of the passion of all of the actors and their singing. While individuals brought the energy, the energy was not evenly brought as a team, leading to it not heightening emotions within the audience. Still, the audience was honed in on the jokes and laughed at all the right, funny moments.

Women’s empowerment themes were weaved in, with Elle’s passionate preach on girls sticking up for other girls being a chant among the screams. The “women for women” theme was alive and evident.

As an East Coaster myself, the costumes were on point for Harvard, showing classic examples of the “East Coast boast.” The skirt suits, neutrals, and argyle-pattern sweaters made the Harvard looks complete. Warner looked like a triple-legacy Harvard admit. Elle continued to stun in pink outfits. Emmett rocked a scruffy look and a suited-up look equally well. Paulette’s iconic pink fanny pack came through. Elle’s mom’s visor at the end was the epitome of preppy tennis gear. Great job on costumes, Julia Van Riel (BC ‘22)! 

The energy was brought on by Hope Johnson, whose solo as Paulette was so outstanding, it brought the loudest applause from the audience. She was funny, she was bouncing with energy, and her character as the supportive friend who deserves the world (i.e. her HOT and dreamy UPS guy, played by Dylan Dameron (CC ‘20)) was played extremely well. UPS guy had my jaw dropping to the ground. 

The attitude and sassiness that Brooke, played by Camilla Cox (CC ‘22), brought during “Whipped into Shape” was absolutely outstanding. I wished she had a larger role in the musical. 

Other standout songs were, of course, “Bend and Snap” and “Legally Blonde”. As the show went on, the singing became more in tune and cohesive among the actors, which resulted in outstanding final songs. The court scene was amazing, and while the song “Gay or European?” was definitely a relic from another era, it was nonetheless executed well. However, the ending transition to “Legally Blonde” was confusing, and the choreography at that moment was abrupt. 

The set was allegedly done the day before the show, and this definitely showed, in that it was simple, and not elegantly simple. There wasn’t a lot of attention paid to the set pieces, as the door, house, and “H” for Harvard were basic elements that could have been further added on to. Some props were missing and had to be mimed. The red solo cups and Red Bull in the Harvard scenes, however, were all too realas were the adorable dogs. Despite its disappointments, a set can be offset by an outstanding performance, and Elle Woods and other individuals brought their all the stage. 

Now it comes time to rank the kiss between Elle and Emmett: For a theatre performance, it was good in that it was quick, but it was underwhelming in body language. It could have gotten more focus, but that’s showbiz. 

All in all, while it had less energy, this college production of Legally Blonde played to audience preferences for a familiar movie. It was still definitely worth going to for the stunning voices of Elle Woods and Vivienne, played by India Beer (BC ‘20), demonstrating true Columbia Musical Theatre Society talent.  The standout acting was again, Genevieve Joers, Harris Solomon, Hope Johnson, and Lindsey Belisle. The sound and set were subpar at times, but the choreography, by Andrea Patella (BC ‘21), was very college and very well-coordinated. The costume designer, Julia Van Riel (BC ‘22), nailed it, especially with Elle’s pink outfits, Emmett, and Vivienne. The musicians in the pit did amazing and showed they were all on the same rhythm. Finally, lighting done by Jessica Miner (BC ‘23) was excellent. This show is worth seeing for the funny moments and evocation of classic college moments.  

Congratulations to CMTS!

photography via Sarah Leidich