Bulletin News

Musical ‘Legally Blonde’ Opens April 10


SUNY Cortland will be getting its pink on for six main stage performances of the hit Broadway musical “Legally Blonde, The Musical” starting Friday, April 10.

The College Performing Arts Department’s production will offer the bubbly, intelligent sorority girl Elle Woods as a character who parades through classrooms and courtrooms wearing suits in the distinctive color.

As in the book by Heather Hack and the popular 2001 Warner Brothers film upon which the musical is based, Elle — to be played by Jaclyn “Jackie” Collins, a senior from Bayville, N.Y. — will deliver the triple whammy of pink blonde bombshell upon audiences for four evening and two matinee shows in the Dowd Fine Arts Center Theatre.

Elle’s former boyfriend Warner Huntington III — portrayed by Benjamin Shimkus, a junior from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. — will perform as the jerk who thought he had left Elle behind in Malibu, having wanted her to become more “serious.”

The evening shows begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 10; Saturday, April 11; Friday, April 17; and Saturday, April 18. The two Sunday matinee performances start at 2 p.m. on April 12 and April 19.

Ticket purchases have moved online for the first time. They may be bought in advance online by credit card at www.cortland.edu/boxoffice and also will be sold at the Dowd Center box office one hour prior to each performance. Ticket prices are $8 for all students and children, $15 for SUNY Cortland faculty, staff and senior citizens and $18 for general admission.

The Performing Arts Department joins a popular wave in bringing this musical to the theatre.

“The musical has only recently been available and a lot of colleges across the country are doing it,” said Kevin T. Halpin, who is directing and staging the College’s production.

“It’s a really good show for colleges to produce because it features a cast with contemporary ages to the students you have, and it’s got a really large female cast,” said Halpin, an associate professor of performing arts. “In most musical theatre programs, there tend to be more women than men, so ‘Legally Blonde’ gives more women the chances to shine.”

“Legally Blonde, The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, springs from a growing tradition of films adapted for the stage, Halpin said.

In the early days of film and stage, successful plays were made into movies and never the other way around, he noted.

“It’s kind of going the other way, to turn a movie into a play,” Halpin said. “But in the last decade or so, there’s been a big trend towards taking popular films and adapting them to stage versions, both musical and non-musical.”

The movement got its start with the 1960s-era Mel Brooks film “The Producers,” which Brooks adapted into the 2001 Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick that won a record-breaking 12 Tony awards.

“After that, there was ‘Young Frankenstein.’ Then ‘Shrek.’ Then all the Disney stuff,” such as Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Halpin said.

“Now it’s very popular to take the big films and produce them as a Broadway play,” he said. “Right now, Disney’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ is being developed off Broadway and is slated to be produced on Broadway.”

The movement persists, despite some major flops in the genre, Halpin noted. One of the most notorious ones was a musical takeoff in the late 1980s on “Carrie,” the legendary Stephen King horror book and subsequent cult classic film.

“‘Legally Blonde, The Musical’ was very much a popular success,” Halpin said. “It found the great balance of not taking itself too seriously and bringing these characters to life musically on stage.

“They are great characters to play with and to let them get expanded into what it takes to be a force on stage. The musical flows on stage, it works really well. It’s just a lot of fun: nothing too heavy, not sad all the time, all very much about having a great time.”

“Legally Blonde” will be produced at SUNY Cortland by special arrangement with Music Theatre International. In addition to Halpin, the production staff includes Mark Abrahamson as stage manager, Preston Marye as technical director, Joel Pape overseeing lighting and sound design, Myra Giorgi as set designer, Mark Reynolds as costume designer and Josh Smith as music director. The scenic artist is Beth Gailor, assistant choreographer is Catherine Skojec, assistants to the director are Amber Johnson and Anna Starr, and assistant stage mangers are Emily Woods, Steffanie Chesnutt and Hayley Pytel.