Props are being moved from stage left to stage right and improv dancing is underway to an upbeat tune, softly playing through hidden speakers. Just two days from closing night, Theater Director Sarah Bogard is sitting a few rows from the top, looking down on her class and reflecting on the string of shows her students have completed. Six performances of the musical “Legally Blonde” proved sufficient for Bogard to assess the cast and crew's ability to perform.
“How they learned and the growth of what they learned was amazing,” Bogard said. “I have no doubt, having done this production and worked together with that fortitude and strength, that they could audition for a Broadway show and be up to speed with the knowledge. They might be developing skills in terms of their acting, singing and dancing, but they would be right there with the rest.”
Spanish Springs High’s rendition of Legally Blonde follows closely to the Hollywood version in which a ‘Malibu princess’ pursues her love interest at Harvard, a place she seemingly does not belong. Bogard, who cast and directed the show, said the story of personal triumph immediately drew her to the musical and added that it fit perfectly with her students’ abilities.
“The reason I chose this story is because although it is about a blonde Malibu-princess-type person going to Harvard for all the wrong reasons, the basis of it is finding herself and taking ownership of who she is and what she is,” Bogard said. “I love stories about personal transformation. I discussed it with the cast and it is one of the more contemporary musicals that we have done, which they were very excited about. I had a great cast of teenagers who fit the roles. They understood the nature of it and it was very close to them.”
Bogard said Thursday she was unaware how much music would be going into the performance, forcing her to consult a vocal coach in early summer in preparation for Legally Blonde. Though the music is a focal point of the performance, Bogard placed her main focus on the acting and trusted her technical crew and music collaborators to handle the inner workings of each specialty.
“The musical director and I both worked on it and it is an incredible collaborative experience,” Bogard said of the musical numbers. “There is absolutely no way that this could have manifested to the point it is at now without all the help we have had.
“I didn’t realize when I got into this how fast the set changes are. There is no time. Not only did I have an incredible cast but I had an incredible technical crew. When we started off I thought, ‘This is never going to work.’ Now I would hire them in a heartbeat. They move sets so quickly and have all the right timing and they work so well together.”
With 16 crew members and 25 cast members, some playing dual roles, Bogard said she relied heavily on the collaboration among band and orchestra director Alec Mariani, musical director Cindy Sabatini and choreographer Stephanie Forman to ensure things ran smoothly. Guest appearances from a Spanish Springs High staff and administrators, according to Bogard, and even some help from Truckee Meadows animal rescue, were perfect examples of the joint effort behind the scenes of the show.
“We had a vice principal perform with us and we had interest on all levels, from principal all the way to custodial crew,” Bogard said. “Every single piece of that is part of the connected circle of making this a great show and a joyous experience for the students.”
Bogard noted a few scenes in Legally Blonde that showcase the cast’s talent and have potential to induce emotional experiences for the audience. She said a key moment between the two lead characters, played by Elise Van Dyne (Elle) and Josh Gillette (Emmett), encapsulates the show’s ability to combine acting and singing beautifully.
“There is a beautiful moment where Emmett and Elle are singing together onstage and the level and quality of their voices, their acting and their feeling, everything just comes together and you have to say ‘that’s beautiful,’” Bogard said.
As Friday’s final show comes to an end Bogard said she will likely have a mix of emotions to deal with internally, none bigger than those she feels for her students. Though she will feel some relief of pressure, she feels the focus on the skills developed and taken away from the students’ performance will bring more satisfaction than anything.
“That is a moment for me of just ‘ahh,’” Bogard said of seeing the final curtain close. “It is not the relief of finishing but it is more a ‘you’ve done it’ feeling. ‘You guys have done it, especially you seniors, who are going to take this with you and it will be a part of your life whether you ever choose to be a professional theater person or not.’
“Beside the thrill of being on stage and being a part of something like this, they love the feeling of ‘I did a great job.’ They really take pride in their work. This is a group that is really close and they make life-long connections. I pour all my love and I say ‘Now you know how to take that inner creative space and have that always be a part of your life -- that play, that fun, that joy -- you can do these things.’”