Wootton Center for the Arts is currently presenting “Legally Blonde: The Broadway Musical” at Wootton High School in Rockville.
The play, of course, is composed of several acts, lead and minor roles, music, and drama. But behind the scenes of “Legally Blonde” at Wootton High are the sets and subsets of these larger components.
There is the overall supervisor and director Jessica Speck, student technical director Alina Gaynutdinova, lighting designer Cameron Walkup, a choreographer, an orchestra conductor, crew members, and the actors themselves. The students are more poised, articulate, focused, and accomplished than one would ever imagine of high school teens.
Alina, a senior, has worked both stage and crew. While acting in “39 Steps” during freshman year, she formed strong bonds with the crew members; so much so, that the following year she worked crew as a carpenter until earning the title she now bears – student technical director. Big title, big responsibility. With clipboard in hand, Alina oversees the design and building of all set pieces, large and small, making sure all of the carpenters are on target for completing their work by deadline. Wearing protective goggles, she also operates a buzz saw to cut the pieces she first drew on paper.
“I don’t like singing,” raves Alina, “but I love crew!” It’s the ability to use her creativity that makes this so appealing to her, not to mention the great friends she has made through four years of being a crew member. Alina, Russian-born and most likely headed to College Park, says that though she may not major in the arts, she anticipates theater will be part of her life always.
Cameron Walkup also has managerial responsibilities. As the show’s lighting designer, he manages five others – a master electrician who implements Cameron’s vision for all aspects of lighting, as well as four other electricians.
A senior, Cameron explains he had to proffer his qualifications in an application for this position. What experience could he possibly have had at age 17? He began as an electrician on the set during freshman and sophomore years, was later promoted to lighting designer, and now is overseeing his sixth show. Cameron’s job is to create atmosphere, set the tone of the show, and make it pink! His skill set is formidable, involving familiarity with the latest techniques for lighting – use of gels and color scrolls, pre-setting auditorium and stage lights according to script and musical accompaniment. High up in the lighting booth he sits, working a giant computerized board to cast favorable lighting on the actors and set pieces.
Cameron has been accepted as a Sondheim scholar at UMBC, where he is considering a major in environmental studies and a future in politics. His resume already boasts work on Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign.
So we’ve got a perfectly pink set and computerized pink lighting. Now we just need the actors who will tell us how Elle Woods applies to and graduates from Harvard Law School with not too much going on upstairs but a fondness for fashion. Lead actors Jackie Kempa (as Elle Woods), Myles Frost (as Warner), and William Memmott (as Emmet) lead this enormous cast with their own enormous talent.
The leads explain that auditions involve both singing and dancing and are what’s referred to as general auditions, meaning you might prefer, but don’t try out for a specific role. The process begins with an online application and résumé submission. No, this is not your parents’ play or even your high school play. The three leads have résumés that include Washington National Opera Theatre, leadership programs, achievement awards, voice lessons, a cappella singing groups, and acting classes at Wootton.
Jackie has been in every show since freshman year except one, as cast or crew, and says popularity has nothing to do with getting a lead role. The director, music director, choreographer, and a few faculty members make up the panel to select lead and supporting roles. Application qualifications and audition performance determine success of auditions.
During rehearsals, parents are supportive, relationships hold up, but homework and sleep may go to the wayside. Myles says sleep is on short order and that because he, William, and Jackie are in nearly every scene, the three of them have little time to do homework.
Jackie plans to go to Penn State and like Alina, hopes to keep theater as a big part of her life. Myles, still a junior, says he’ll continue his already burgeoning career as a recording artist. He plays drums, piano, sax, baritone, and trumpet. With his mom managing his career, he has regular gigs playing keyboards all over Prince George’s County where he spent most of his youth. William, also a junior, is certain that he will make acting his career. This is his sixth play at Wootton, but you wouldn’t know it from his modest disposition.
Many wheels of varying sizes turn to make this machine go. What’s so impressive is the ongoing, steady commitment to the end product; no egos in the house.
Remaining performances of “Legally Blonde: The Broadway Musical” will be shown on April 15 and 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Wootton High School, 2100 Wootton Parkway, Rockville, with tickets selling at $15. For more information, go to www.WoottonArts.com.