By Riley Eisenbeil
The student-run TCNJ Musical Theatre (TMT) group presented “Legally Blonde,” a romantic comedy about staying true to yourself, to four crowds at the Main Stage Theater in Kendall Hall on March 1, 2 and 4.
The musical is based on a novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture. The College’s performance featured music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, as well as the script by Heather Hach.
The show took the audience along on a three-hour journey following the “famously perky” Elle Woods, a sorority girl who feels lost when her boyfriend Warner dumps her to find a more serious lover at Harvard Law School. In hopes of proving she is more than a blonde stereotype, she also gets into Harvard Law and surprises herself with unexplored talents and a newfound purpose.
“At the heart of it, it’s telling a very important story and following several different women on their journeys of female empowerment,” said Michelle Sonbati, the lead director of the show and a junior English and editing and publishing double major.
Aside from four full-day rehearsals over winter break, the cast only had about five weeks to put the show together. The pit orchestra received the music at the beginning of February so they had about four weeks to be ready for the show.
Over that time, the production staff and cast had a few “Legally Bond” events where they would play games, watch the movie or just hang out to get closer to each other.
“There is such a sense of community [in TMT],” said Brendan Branosky, a freshman special elementary education and history major who played Warner. “When you’re a freshman, you’re always so nervous like, ‘Am I gonna find any friends?’ but this cast had such an incredible bond.”
About two weeks before opening night, Laura Bell Bundy, who played the original Elle Woods on Broadway, came to the College to share some inside jokes that she had with her own cast, different rituals they followed and advice for the production.
Branosky initially had a difficult time embodying his character since his personality is “very opposite” from his character.
“[Warner] is very over-the-top confident and this different, macho-masculine man,” Branosky said. “Of course it was fun to play somebody different, but usually I am the character chasing the girl or somebody else. I’ve never been the one sought after.”
Having the opportunity to talk to Bundy was helpful for him to connect to Warner.
“Of course, I didn’t get to talk to the original Warner, but she was able to tell us all about how the different people found themselves within their character,” Branosky said.
Meghan Hatley, a junior special secondary education and English major, took on the role of Elle Woods in TMT’s production and was also excited to meet Bundy.
“[Her] coming to talk to us was the coolest thing ever,” she said. “It was extremely helpful and a privilege to meet her.”
Hatley watched “Legally Blonde” the movie and the musical pro-shot each about a dozen times over winter break to prepare for her part. She was nervous about taking on such an iconic role, but after long hours of rehearsal and a pep talk from Bundy, she took the stage to do it alongside her friends.
“Once you come into the performances and there is a live audience in front of you, there’s an energy that gets channeled from having them and from having the thrill of the adrenaline of performing,” Hatley said. “I was really happy with the performances.”
On closing night, loud cheers and applause filled the theater throughout the show. The crowd was especially loud when Kyle, the hot UPS guy played by senior business management major Brian Nigro, walked up and down the aisles for a few minutes flaunting his character.
The audience gave a standing ovation during the finale as well; clearly, the crowd loved it.
“I was really surprised by how vocally talented everyone was,” said sophomore journalism and professional writing major Skye Frawley, who saw the show on closing night. “[And] the fact that it is student-run is really cool. I think that really shows the dedication that the students have.”
Editor's note: This article previously stated that Michelle Sonbati is the lead director of TMT; This is incorrect. Sonbati served as the lead director of “Legally Blonde.”