Bend and Snap
Manship Theatre and Center Stage Performing Arts Academy Come Together for 13th Annual Summer Musical
By Mark RedmondPosted Jul 5, 2012
Four years ago, I discovered that the apartment in which I lived had bootleg cable. After two years of boarding school and two more years living in the Eversberg Shantytown on State Street (where even owning a television was difficult, as the ancient circuits in our breaker boxes could hardly handle an oscillating fan), I had no idea what television had become. But on June 28, 2008, I was enlightened: Legally Blonde – The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods premiered on MTV. It was the only show on television that featured a dozen catty women trying to sing while balancing on stationary bicycles or dance on cobblestone streets, and I could hardly turn away.
Unfortunately, the Broadway musical for which the girls were competing closed in October of that same year. But take heart, people of Baton Rouge. Gonzales’ Center Stage Performing Arts Academy will be bringing Legally Blonde – The Musical to the Manship Theatre this July.
For those unfamiliar with the source material, Legally Blonde is a 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon as a vapid but goodhearted airhead who enlists in law school to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she’s not as shallow as he believes. It was also the film that, along with 2000’s Kirsten Dunst vehicle Bring It On, cemented Witherspoon and Dunst as the “it” blonde actresses of the new millennium, effectively killing the career of ‘90s starlet Alicia Silverstone and leading her down the primrose path to this past April’s controversial video of her spitting pre-masticated food into her baby son’s mouth. You know, like a bird. Thanks, Legally Blonde!
Many modern audiences find it difficult to take musicals seriously, and with good reason; musicals are a holdover from theatrical traditions that predate vaudeville, and the creakiness in the joints of the form are apparent. Today’s more culturally literate audience expects what is called, in film, cinema verité (literally, “truthful cinema”); that is, they expect fictional works to represent life as it is truly experienced. This does not mean that properly written speculative fiction or supernatural horror fall outside of this definition, but that works in these genres maintain a logical cohesion within their own framework, and that framework bears enough of a resemblance to reality to be palatable.
Musicals are the opposite of verité. All good literature revolves around the maxim that one must show, not tell. Musical theatre does away with this idea altogether, as characters’ desires are made manifest through ham-fisted exposition and loads upon loads of telling. Musicals take place in worlds where expressing your desires through a song that lacks all subtlety is virtually a requirement, and foreshadowing takes the form of blatant statement. For instance, Legally Blonde – The Musical’s opening number, “Omigod (sic) You Guys” contains the lines “Oh my god/Oh my god, you guys/Look’s like Elle’s gonna win the prize/If there ever was a perfect couple/This one qualifies!” Succinct – yes; subtle – no.
That having been said, and my personal grievances with the musical genre aside, audiences can expect nothing but professionalism and an amazing performance from the members of the Central Stage Performing Arts Academy.
The CSPAA opened in 2000 with the intention of becoming a leading institution for training young people in performance arts, including dance, acting, training in the use of voice and musical instruments, and musical theatre. The performance of a musical every summer has been a tradition for the organization since its inception; last year’s Seussical was well received, and past troupes have put on performances of standards like Footloose (2005), My Fair Lady (2003), and The Wizard of Oz (2002) with great aplomb. My Fair Lady and Footloose even featured Megan Campanile, a CSPAA alumna who has gone on to participate in the national tour of Little House on the Prairie and is currently an ensemble member and understudy for Glinda in the national Broadway tour of Wicked.
With that track record, this year’s summer presentation should be, in the words of Elle Woods, “Just like senior year, only funner.”
The Center Stage Performing Arts Academy Presents Legally Blonde – The Musical
• Manship Theater at the Shaw Center for the Arts
• Tickets are $21.50 through www.ManshipTheatre.org or 225.344.0334
• Night performances (7:30 p.m.)
o July 6-7
o July 11-13
o July 18-20
• Daytime matinees (2 p.m.)
o July 8
o July 14-15
Legally Blonde – The Musical will be performed July 6-8, 11-15, and 18-20 at the Manship Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $21.50 from www.ManshipTheatre.org.