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Six leg roundabout opens in Cottage Grove

Park High School tackles 'Legally Blonde' musical

Molly Moran (left) and Leah Haliburton star in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at Park High School. Moran plays Elle Woods, a sorority girl who becomes a Harvard law student. Haliburton plays a personal fitness media personality accused of murder. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 1 / 4
Molly Moran (center) and Mitchell Jensen debate legal strategies but eventually discover a mutual attraction in “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” The Park High School production opens April 25 and runs through May 4. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)2 / 4
Park High School students have to sing and skip rope simultaneously during rehearsals for “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” It opens April 25 and runs through May 4 at Park. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 3 / 4
Park freshman Melody Armstrong rehearses a dance number from “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 4 / 4

Park High School senior Molly Moran just might have a new BFF.

That would be Elle Woods, the character she plays in “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

The production is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 movie that starred Reese Witherspoon. It opens Friday, April 25 at Park.

“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so attached to a character before,” said Moran, who dyed her hair blond rather than wear a wig. “I have been watching ‘Legally Blonde’ since it came out. I watched it when I was 5 years old and I’ve been in love with it ever since.”

Elle is a pampered California sorority girl who enrolls in Harvard Law School to win back her stuffy ex-boyfriend. The Ivy League gives her the cold shoulder at first, but Elle is like, so NOT a quitter. She hits the books, charms skeptics and sheds her perky pink outfits for the dark blue suits of a serious, socially-committed, law student. And, oh yes, she discovers love where she least expected to find it.

In the process, Elle discovers her inner reserves of intelligence and resourcefulness.

“She’s a lot smarter than she gives herself credit for,” Moran said. “She’s extremely positive. She expects the best of everybody.”

As graduation nears, Moran is making the most of her last performance on the Park stage.

Coincidentally, the last scene in “Legally Blonde” is a graduation scene.

“This is the last time I can take risks someplace safe,” said Moran, who lives in Cottage Grove.

Despite its girlie exuberance and lighthearted story, “Legally Blonde” presents some significant technical challenges to the cast and musicians at Park. The dance numbers, which were choreographed by Broadway veteran Jerry Mitchell, borrow from the movement vocabulary of fitness videos, hip-hop, and, at one point,“Riverdance.” In one musical number called “Whipped into Shape,” cast member Leah Haliburton and the ensemble must sing while they skip rope.

“This is the most demanding musical,” said cast member Michaela Silvis, 15, who plays Elle’s best friend. “But it’s wonderful.”

The orchestra is working from the original Broadway score, Park choir director Ben O’Connor said.

“It has a lot of harmonies, a lot of different chorus parts especially,” he said. “It’s not like choir, where all the sopranos are together. They’re all mixed up onstage so they really have to know their harmonies.”

At a recent rehearsal, the proceedings frequently stopped so band director Tom Storm could work out musical cues with the cast.

“Places for Act II, guys!” director and faculty member Emily Ball called out. “Guys! Get offstage! I can see you! Same time as last time please, Mr. Storm.”

Elle’s love interest in the musical is a nerdy Harvard teaching assistant named Emmett Forrest. He’ll be played by Mitchell Jensen. A senior, Jensen has acted in Park productions like “Once Upon a Mattress” and was part of the school drama team that competed in this year’s state one-act play competition.

The former production was based on a fairy tale, while the latter was a truncated version of a Shakespeare play. Jensen, of Cottage Grove, said he’s glad to be playing a relatively real person for a change. “I felt like I could fit into the role,” he said.