Arts & Entertainment

Life Lessons with ‘Legally Blonde’

Alpine Theatre Project’s teen program tackles raucous musical for spring show, April 18-20

Sometimes, it’s the lessons you aren’t anticipating that teach you the most. Take, for example, the musical “Legally Blonde,” a title denoting light, bubbly times, but perhaps camouflaging the real-world applications of staying true to oneself and maximizing personal potential.

To make the upcoming Whitefish production of this musical even more intriguing, while the audience watches the characters learn more about who they are and what they are truly capable of, the teen actors of the Alpine Kids! Theatre Project portraying the wild and funny “Legally Blonde” cast are learning similar lessons as well.

The students will take on the raucous musical for the spring session’s performance on April 18-20. Over show’s run, the cast will perform three shows, each one coming in around two hours.

Luke Walrath, the education and marketing director for Alpine Theatre Project, said high school students are responsible for putting on a more mature performance than their grade-school counterparts. The AKTP show for the younger kids takes place in the fall.

“(A musical like ‘Legally Blonde’) is just a little more demanding, a little more mature,” Walrath said. “The material is a lot more difficult.”

Thirty-six students from seven schools around the valley were cast for the show, and they have had to come together as a team to make the show work, Walrath said, despite coming from different schools.

One of the goals of the AKTP educational outreach program is to introduce kids to other students who they may not interact with on a regular basis, usually because of proximity, and help them realize the potential in each other. It’s about growing as individuals and as a team, Walrath said.

“One of the things that we’re trying to impress upon them, is that the process of making theater is very, very basic, the equation is very basic,” Walrath said. “The more you put in the more you get out; it’s completely fundamental that way.”

So, much like Elle Woods, the protagonist of the musical, the theater students learn that charm and just skating by will only get them so far. In the beginning of her journey, Elle is the stereotype of a bubbly, airhead blonde, who seems to have it all.

But when her boyfriend, Warner Huntington, dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law, Elle is intent upon following him.

Once there, however, Elle must learn how to apply herself in a much less forgiving environment, where her brains and wit must be on display as much as her charm and designer duds. With the help of new friends, Elle begins to understand her potential, and sets out to prove she can hack it in the high-stakes legal world.

High school students usually learn much of the same lesson in extracurricular activities. In sports, students don’t put in their time to practice, their skills won’t measure up in competition. It’s much the same for theater and the arts.

“The performing arts instill the same kinds of things, we’re still dealing with the same concepts here,” Walrath said. “The added bonus with the arts is the creative aspect. They get to express themselves creatively.”

Walrath said the high school students have come a long way during the seven weeks of rehearsal for the show; given that high school students eventually graduate, Walrath said some of the most seasoned seniors in AKTP have left, and he has been pleased with how the remaining crop of teen actors have stepped up to lead.

“What we have found actually is some of the kids who were not leaders before, now that those seniors are gone, they have really taken on that mantle,” he said. “They’re really kind of taking the lead which is really fun to watch.”

The musical is adapted from the extremely popular movie of the same name, and Walrath said the theater version is able to take the movie’s themes of poking fun at stereotypes – for blondes, sorority girls, law students and more – even further.

As actors, the students have had to learn about comedic timing. The past few spring shows have tackled darker, heavier subject matter, Walrath said, which is typically what teens are drawn to. With a comedy, they get a fresh way to show off their acting skills, and must learn to commit to a character in order to land a joke.

Developing these aspects helps give the students more confidence, which is key not only for theater, but also their lives.

“Confidence is one of the biggest (lessons). If you have the confidence to go up there on stage and stand before 450 people per night … If you’ve got the guts and you’ve got the confidence to do that, think of what else you can do,” Walrath said.

“Legally Blonde” runs April 18-20 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8 for students, and $18 for adults. For more information, call 862-7469 or visit www.atpwhitefish.org.