East York Mirror
If there's a tradition that runs as deeply as football at East York Collegiate, it's musical theatre.
The school's upcoming production of Legally Blonde...The Musical is its 15th show in 35 years and its first since the 2007 staging Grease.
"This has been a big tradition at the school," said Michael Atzemis, a co-producer of the musical and the school's guidance counsellor.
He speaks not only from his role today, but also from his past experience as a member of the crew of Guys and Dolls in 1988 while he was a student at EYCI.
"I can't sing or dance myself," he said.
With five years since Grease, Legally Blonde offers the first chance for students at the school to participate in a musical.
For Grade 11 student Taylor Emo, the chance to participate in a musical before graduating was exciting. The 16-year-old loves performing and had done shows when she was younger.
"I love acting. I love singing," she said. "I was excited. I knew it would be a lot of work, but it's worth it."
Originally the show was supposed to be The Sound of Music, which Emo was happy to audition for. But when the rights became available for Legally Blonde, Emo was thrilled.
"When it turned out to be Legally Blonde I was even more excited," she said.
Emo just happened to get the role of the lead character Elle Woods. With her long, blond hair, Emo fits the role made famous on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon. That's a coincidence, said director Pat Murray, adding the lead was selected because of her voice and abilities, not because of her appearance.
Murray initially wanted to do Legally Blonde, but when auditions began last spring the rights weren't available for high schools. That changed in the fall and Murray got her wish.
"It's hip, it's cool, it's fun. It has a great message," she said. "The message that this play gives is it's OK to be beautiful and smart. It breaks down stereotypes, it allows for crossing of socioeconomic status."
Atzemis said it's also a good fit for the young cast.
"Grease was very much a story about high school students so this is very much a transition because many of the students are going on to university, which is what this is about," he said.
Murray has never seen the musical and has not watched any clips online so she's been able to put an EYCI stamp on it from the direction to the costumes to the set.
"When I direct a show I don't look at any other directors," she said.
The dedicated cast of about 18 (many play more than one role) has been working tirelessly since the fall devoting lunch hours and every day after school (except Fridays) to rehearsals. The production is now in the home stretch to its May 10, 11, and 12 performance dates so that schedule has ramped up to include Saturdays, too, as the fine-tuning on costume changes, lighting, sound and working with the set is done before opening night.
More than 70 students are involved with bringing the show to life.
The show is expected to draw more than 6,000 people. Atzemis said the musicals receive a lot of support from not only the school community, but also the wider community.