By Peter Morris
Oct. 1, 2012. Spectacular musical and dance numbers will enhance yet another retelling of the hit Broadway and film production of Legally Blonde, which will be presented this week, Oct. 4-7, in Lees-McRae College’s Hayes Auditorium, in Banner Elk. The popular work, based on the novel by Amanda Brown, will be Dr. Janet Barton Speer’s—the long-serving theatrical genius behind LMC’s outstanding performing arts productions—last directorial presentation prior to her official retirement, although she hopes to continue directing in LMC Summer Theatre offerings.
“Legally Blonde features music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and is based on the novel of the same name by Amanda Brown,” explained Speer, “Like the popular 2001 film which stared Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson and Selma Blair, it tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls in Harvard University Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend but soon discovers she has her own knack for the ins and outs of the legal system. While at Harvard,” she continued, “she discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, later successfully defending ‘exercise queen’ Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial.”
Says Speer, “The musical stays true to the movie but enhances it with wonderfully modern music and dance. It resonates with high school and college students and with adults who long to see young people learn the lessons of what really matters in this world.”
The cast of Legally Blonde includes Nichole Wright, as Elle; Richard Gebo, as Emmett; and Casey Courtney, as Callahan.
Directed and choreographed by Speer, the production staff of Legally Blonde includes James Taylor as music director; Danielle Baisden Curtis, as sets and lighting designer; Justin Hall, costume design; Stephanie Deal Bengston, as dance captain; and Daven Vanhoy, as stage manager.
“Legally Blonde is so much fun! It goes from one delightful number to another, and I love the theme,” exclaims Speer. “A blonde sorority girl, more interested in boys and cheerleading than law, puts on the act of being dumb, because she thinks that’s what is expected of her. “Yet when she goes to Harvard to follow a boy,” she continued, “she finds out that she has a brain and breaks the stereotype of being ‘blonde’, enjoying who she is and who she can be.”
With Speer retiring, it will literally be the end of an era at Lees-McRae College. In her 34-year-long of association with Lees-McRae’s Performing Arts Department, she has directed over 500 shows, most of them musicals. Productions which she has directed include Into The Woods, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Chorus Line, 12th Night and The Diary of Anne Frank, among hundreds upon hundreds of others.
Speer plans on “spending some time with my husband, Allen, who has also retired this year.”
Performances of Legally Blonde will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4-6, at 7:30 pm, with a special matinee performance to be staged on Sunday, Oct. 7, at 2:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door on the night of performance.