The stage in River Hill High School’s auditorium smelled strongly of paint, and power tools were strewn all around as the finishing touches were added to the multiple set pieces for the school’s Blue Curtain Theatre Company’s production of “Legally Blonde.”
“There is so much happening right now,” said Meghan Meyer, director of the production and a theater/math teacher at the school. “This is what it looks like before the audience shows up — chaos.”
With six big platform sets and numerous set pieces, the production is large and space is tight. In one song alone, the set changes three times, Meyer said.
“These are big, moving pieces,” Meyer said. “There are parking spaces for each. All are made in house.”
As the cast performed their mic checks on stage, the stage crew and volunteers continued working, hammering and adjusting details to the various facades, including sorority houses, a jail and a dorm room, that are important parts of “Legally Blonde’s” story.
“We’ll get everything done,” said Emma Golus, 17, stage manager. “It’s still coming together, but it will turn out to be a great show.”
Previously a teacher in Carroll County, this is Meyer’s first year as director with River Hill. In the fall, the group made a successful production of “Alice in Wonderland.” Meyer is confident that “Legally Blonde” will prove to be another hit, too.
“The messages are super relevant, especially for high school students,” Meyer said. “You have to be careful about stereotypes and judging books by their covers.”
Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, “Legally Blonde” the musical premiered in 2007 and tells the story of a California-born sorority girl, Elle Woods, and her efforts to win back her boyfriend, who dumps her upon graduation to attend Harvard Law.
Elle, who is smarter than everyone thinks, works hard to get into Harvard Law School, too, where she learns not only law, but discovers a lot about herself.
“This has been a dream role for me,” said Deven Ferrer, 17, who plays Elle. “My whole life, I have listened to the soundtrack. Now it’s the end of my senior year performance.”
Blake Ipsen, 17, was encouraged by his friends to try out for the musical. A member of the choir throughout his school years, Blake was still surprised to land the role of Emmett, a lawyer, teacher assistant and Elle’s love interest.
“He is my personality,” Blake said. “There’s not a whole lot of hard acting involved. It’s a comic role; that’s what I like about it.”
Blake admits to being a little bit nervous about his first stage role but is confident his years in choir will keep him calm.
“It is definitely different than I expected,” Ipsen said. “I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.”
Meyers has enjoyed working with the cast of 50 and crew of 22.
“They are all so genuinely positive and have such great energy,” Meyer said.
That energy is important. River Hill productions, Meyer said, are known to be the first of both the fall and spring theater seasons in Howard County. Time is of the essence, with only a limited amount of weeks for rehearsals – and holidays, sick days, teacher days and more taking away from them.
For the spring show, rehearsals began before the Christmas break.
It’s a big commitment, Meyer said, but doing a show early in the year has its benefits, too.
“A lot of our kids do other things — choir, band, sports,” Meyer said. “We try to make sure it fits with what they want to, do so they do not have to choose.”
Phoebe Chan, 18, used to be a member of the school’s history club and would compete, capturing fourth place last year at the National History Day competition held at the University of Maryland, College Park. This year, she, as a member of the history club, is mentoring middle school students because she wanted to give musical theater a try.
“I did the play, ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ my sophomore year,” Chan said. “I wanted to join a musical. It’s been a lot of fun. I do a lot of dancing. It’s been a good way to end my senior year.”
For Meyer, the show has been a good way to end her first year.
“A full year into it, I know the kids better and they know me better,” Meyers said. “This is the perfect place for me to be.”
River Hill High School presents “Legally Blonde” at 7 p.m. Feb. 27, 28 and 29 and at 2 p.m. March 1 in the school’s auditorium, 12101 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville. Call 410-313-7120.
Coming to a high school near you
Howard High School, 8700 Old Annapolis Road, Ellicott City. 410-313-2867.
- “Matilda,” Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., Feb 29 at 2 and 7 p.m., and March 1 at 2 p.m. $9/11 online, $12/14 at the door.
Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. 410-313-6965.
- “Guys and Dolls,” March 5-7 at 7 p.m. $13 online, $14 at the door.
Oakland Mills High School, 9410 Killimanjaro Road, Columbia. 410-313-6945.
- “Footloose,” March 5-7 at 7 p.m. and March 8 at 2 p.m. $10 online.
Hammond High School, 8800 Guilford Road, Columbia. 410-313-7615.
- “The Addams Family (School Edition),” March 12-14 at 7 p.m. and March 14 at 2 p.m. $10 online, $13 at the door.
Centennial High School, 4300 Centennial Lane, Ellicott City. 410-313-2856.
- “Chicago: High School Edition,” March 19-21 at 7 p.m. and March 22 at 2 p.m. $10/$12 online, $14 at the door.
Marriotts Ridge High School, 12100 Woodford Drive, Marriottsville. 410-313-5568.
- “The Addams Family,” March 19-22 at 7 p.m. and March 22 at 3 p.m. $10 in advance, $13 day of.
Mt. Hebron High School, 9440 Old Frederick Road, Ellicott City. 410-313-2880.
- “Beauty and the Beast,” March 19-21 at 7 p.m. and March 22 at 2 p.m. $12/$10/$6 online.
Reservoir High School, 11550 Scaggsville Road, Fulton. 410-888-8850.
- “The Little Mermaid,” March 20-21 and March 27 at 7 p.m., March 22 at 2 p.m., and March 28 at 2 and 7 p.m. $12 online, $14 at the door.
Altholton High School, 6520 Freetown Road, Columbia. 410-313-7065.
- “Hairspray,” March 26-28 at 7 p.m. and March 29 at 3 p.m. $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
Glenelg High School, 14025 Burntwoods Road, Glenelg. 410-313-5528.
- “Hairspray,” March 26-28 at 7 p.m. and March 28-29 at 2 p.m. $10 online.
Long Reach High School, 6101 Old Dobbin Lanem, Columbia. 410-313-7117.
- “The Phantom of the Opera,” March 26-28 at 7 p.m. and March 29 at 2 p.m. $8.75 online.
Tickets for all of the Howard schools’ productions are available online at hcpss.booktix.com.