Legally Blonde by The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA
March 11, 2020
Review submitted by Niva Cohen of Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy
When picturing a successful lawyer, the image of a peppy, blonde, sorority girl is not what comes to mind. Shipley’s production of Legally Blonde aims to uproot the stereotype of dumb blondes and instill a message of open-mindedness in its place.
Legally Blonde by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin, and Heather Hach, adapts Amanda Brown’s book and the 2001 movie of the same name. It follows Elle Wood, a perky blonde Delta-Nu president, who decides to pursue her boyfriend, Warner, to Harvard Law when he breaks up with her for not being “serious” enough. After combating preconceived notions and learning to work hard from Emmett, her teaching assistant, Elle rises in the ranks to prove to everyone — especially herself — that her sorority personality does not define her and that she does not need a boy to succeed. Legally Blonde, despite speaking to unfair stereotypes that many women must face, is a light-hearted celebration of girl power.
What made Shipley’s production remarkable was its energy, even in the later numbers. The actors’ excitement in every word, in every step, added personality to each of their characters. This was a true ensemble show, and it was delightfully clear how much fun the cast was having.
Sarah McGrath, who played Elle Wood, stole the show. Not only did she amaze the audience with her mastery of difficult vocals, but she also found depth in a character who could appear shallow. Although she portrayed Elle’s bubbly lightness, she brought real emotion when it mattered, especially in the song “Legally Blonde.” Emmett, too, played by Jonathan Kimmel, balanced his awkward nerdiness with macho bluntness in an entertaining performance.
The rest of the cast made this show a funny one, especially De’Rin Price, who demanded laughter in his portrayal of Kyle, the UPS Guy. The Frat Boys, too, were a hilarious addition. Whatever errors the ensemble made in pitch and timing, they made up for in energy and dedication. Specifically, the Greek Trio, played by Lily Nevo, Julia Meckley, and Abby Kanes, was having such a blast that they made the audience want to jump up and dance along.
The challenges of dressing actors in a modern show are often underestimated, but Riley Dewey faced and overcame them wonderfully. The level of uniformity, especially in the denim of the Greek chorus, made it clear that Dewey put great care into making costumes fit, both literally and figuratively. Even though mics were sometimes off and the spotlight slightly late — both understandable in such a complex show — the production ran remarkably smoothly, thanks to the stage management of Carina Jiang.
Harvard Law would be lucky to have the talented cast of Shipley’s Legally Blonde which pulled off a difficult show.
Review submitted by Molly Levine of Upper Merion Area High School
Omigod you guys! The Shipley School put on a fantastic production of Legally Blonde!
Legally Blonde, originally a novel by Amanda Brown, focuses on the effervescent Elle Woods who commits herself to getting into and succeeding at Harvard Law School in order to win back the heart of her ex-boyfriend. Elle learns lessons from new friends of integrity, courage, and sisterhood, as well as teaches others of the importance of compassion and confidence. The musical is filled with toe-tapping music, great comedic lines, and wall-to-wall girl power!
Shipley School’s production of Legally Blonde was full of energy because of the enthusiasm of the entire cast and creativity of the crew! The ensemble’s consistent engagement and in sync choreography kept the show moving, and lead vocals blended well with the incredible student orchestra.
Elle Woods (Sarah McGrath) propelled the show forward with bright vocals and dynamic stage presence. McGrath’s comedic timing showcased both the naïve and intelligent, quick-witted aspects of Elle Woods. Jonathan Kimmel portrayed the adorably nerdy yet compassionate Emmett Forrest perfectly. The two underdogs balanced each other out with McGrath’s bubbly enthusiasm and Kimmel’s dry wit, especially in “Chip on My Shoulder,” where the two won over the hearts of the audience with their chemistry.
The Greek Chorus (Lily Nevo, Julia Meckley, Abby Kanes) provided constant laughter and in-sync choreography as they motivated Elle to follow her dreams! Kyle the U.P.S. Guy (De’Rin Price) stole the spotlight the moment he walked on stage, and performed an impressive Irish jig. The Frat Boys were standout members in the ensemble whose ridiculous antics in “What You Want” and “Bend and Snap” produced much laughter and applause, but also remained engaged and blended cohesively with the rest of the ensemble in courtroom scenes. The ensemble as a whole brought tremendous energy in every number, particularly “There! Right There!” in which the entire cast created a hilarious tableau of a chaotic court.
Shipley’s technical elements elevated the production further with student designed and run teams who took creativity to the next level. The pit orchestra masterfully handled the difficult task of playing professional level music from offstage. Costumes playfully reflected the early 2000s atmosphere with pops of color and denim, with most characters having multiple costumes! Stage crew skillfully navigated moving large set pieces and the many props on and offstage effectively. The cast and crew were a well-oiled machine thanks to the organization and leadership of stage manager Carina Jiang!
This critic is “Positive” that Shipley School’s production of Legally Blonde is one to remember!