by Samitheus Savinon, Contributer Writer
Located on the fifth floor of Thomas Hall is a room painted in black, wall-to-wall, from the ceiling to the floor. The Black Box is home to the Manhattan College Players, a part of the Performing Arts department.
This spring semester, the Players will be putting this room to use during all available hours of the day for the spring musical, Legally Blonde. Although the performance isn’t until April, preparation is already underway for all elements of the production from onstage and behind the scenes. Before the end of the fall semester, the cast list was set and now rehearsals are underway.
Taking on a role isn’t like reading a book in front of a room of people. For most actors in a production, being assigned a character means that between the time in which the script is received to the close of the curtains after the final scene, you are that character.
“I’m excited to bring [my] character to life… [the role has] a lot of dancing throughout the show [and] I’ve been working out more to build up stamina for the performances. I also try to memorize my material as soon as possible because rehearsing off book early on can be beneficial, especially if you’re working with any props. Having an open mind is good too because you want to be open to whatever ideas the director has. The director has an overall vision for the show, and you want to make sure yourself as the character is contributing to this vision,” said Gabriella Herrera, who will be play Margot.
Another cast member, Bailey Shaw, wants to prepare for her role by doing a lot of research using the books, the movie, and past shows. She will be playing Paulette, the hair stylist Elle befriends while deciding whether or not to stay at Harvard.
“Paulette has gone through some hardships in life, including losing the thing she loved the most. That is definitely something I, as well as I’m sure most people, can relate to but aside from the troubles, Paulette is a very upbeat, outgoing person who is often written as the comedic relief which I find myself relating to,” said Shaw.
Relating to the characters is a common occurrence when it comes to acting. Perhaps the best evidence of this is senior Siobhan Connor who will be playing Miss. Legally Blonde herself, Elle Woods. Connor says she sees herself within the character, especially in her growth. As Elle Woods transfers from UCLA to Harvard, Connor comments on her blossoming into a fierce woman who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants.
The preparation for this popular musical has the Players excited, despite all of the hard work coming their way within the next few months. There are many requirements for the club such as tech days and many hours of rehearsals. But the overall vibe of the group is one of happiness and eagerness.
“I’m most excited for rehearsals in the later months when people really come into their own and make their characters the best that they can be. I am excited to see what my fellow students are able to accomplish,” said cast member Tara Ann Connor.
Although it has been achieved a numerous amount of times before, the Players continuously expand the horizons of the impact the performing arts has on their community. Legally Blonde will be no different, as the upbeat and catchy songs will have audience members singing them long after the musical has its run. The show is also much more dance oriented, something the Players haven’t focused on too much within past shows.
“I think that this musical will bring people together since it is a classic story that I think everyone can relate to. It is comedic, serious, sad, but empowering. Watching Legally Blonde can empower someone to never let go of his or her dreams or what they believe in. Something to know about this show would be that we all have Elle’s determination in some ways. We are told that we cannot do something but we must take initiative to achieve our goals. When we are told no, we must take that as a ‘you can do better.’ Legally Blonde is a perfect show for college students to watch and relate to. I think it’ll be an amazing production that everyone should take advantage of and see,” said cast member, Isabel Quiñones.
Returning members, such as Herrera, are thrilled to see the Players expanding and doing more difficult and larger shows.
“During my freshman year, I was in the musical Company, which only had 14 people in it. I have seen this club grow and change over my years at Manhattan. As a board member, I remember we were hesitant to select Legally Blonde as our next show because of its size. It’s exciting that we are able to put on this large show for the Manhattan College community to enjoy. Students and faculty should be prepared for an inspiring story performed by dedicated students,” said Herrera.
Putting it in the most Elle-Woods-way, Connor says, “the show holds more than [songs and dancing], it’s a story that’s empowering. Elle really proves that you can do anything you put your mind to. In just a two-hour time span, we watch her grow and become more than just her blonde hair. I think it’s an important message for all people, especially to women right now.”
The show is coming at a good time in history, when women are standing up for themselves and what they believe in. But had it not been for someone proposing to do the musical last year, it might never had happened. The Players pick which musical suits them the best and draws in the most crowd through a process that goes from 20 to 25 prospective musicals (plus eight to ten plays for the fall) that the board members for Players narrows down to three. Martin Marchitto, the director for the Players, then takes into consideration the productions that he feels they can do well and help the group grow.
“When they presented the three potential musicals, I personally felt that Legally Blonde was an excellent choice on many levels. One of the aspects that really excited me is that this will be one of the largest scale musicals Players has done in quite some time (certainly in my time here) with a cast of 25! It also was a show that I thought had a great story and a terrific script. Because of this, I knew I could be creative in how the show is produced,” Marchitto said.
As rehearsals for music, dancing and acting begin to take over the cast member’s schedule, key contributors will step in to make sure everything is running smoothly. These include Andrew Bauer, who oversees the music aspects of the production. Senior George Schlinck will serve as the student music director, who will be teaching the singers and conducting the orchestra. Sophomore Kirk Rotger will serve as student technical director. Players also works with outside of school people such as Dougie Robbins, a new choreographer this year. Kevin Downing, professional lighting and projection designer and Elizabeth Cipollina, professional costume designer, will be helping out with their respective talents. Marchitto also praises senior Andrea Lopilato on the coordination of all of these aspects. Lopilato serves as Players producer and student stage manager. As it seems, this show will not be one students will want to miss.
“We take pride in all of our works and are consciously and consistently trying to make this club the best it can be. I think that Legally Blonde is such a fun show to watch, that the community will get to enjoy it,” said Connor.