SHAWANO, Wis. (WFRV) – One beauty of community theater is a whole lot of people get to scratch favorite characters or shows off their bucket list.

In her director’s notes, Maddi Stuewer says as much about Box in the Wood Theatre Guild’s production of “Legally Blonde The Musical,” which continues for four more performances at Mielke Arts Center.

She says had been struck by its “themes like friendship, family, female empowerment, and the importance of dogs.”

Maddi Stuewer’s cast responds to opportunities the show offers for singing, dancing, comedy, message-making and character-building. Nevermind that theirs is not a big-budget production, it’s the participation that counts – and that check mark behind the name “Legally Blonde” that everybody seems to know.

Lobby display of the cast. (Warren Gerds)

In the story, the blonde, Elle Woods, is just leaving college. In this production, Elle is portrayed by Grace Stuewer, who in fall will be a senior in high school. Grace Stuewer has been on the stage before with this troupe and elsewhere, and it shows. She looks very sure in singing and dancing and dealing with the rollercoaster life of Elle, plus being a quick-change artist for Elle’s ever-changing wardrobe. It’s a frisky performance.

Elle is clever/snappy/optimistic/American. The creators are extremely knowing about not only Elle but stuff in the American fabric in life styles and attitudes; this is somewhat stereotypical, but who cares when you’re having fun?

Elle is the epitome of looks over content – the blonde joke. Her view of the future includes idyllic life with the ambitious Warner Huntington III (Matt Ogan). Warner’s picture, though, is with someone on his arm who is classier than a Barbie Doll.

Off Warner goes to Harvard and its meat-grinder law school. Never losing her fireworks pizzazz, Elle leaps into this bully environment. But Elle finds Warner has a new, hoity-toity girlfriend, Vivienne Kensington (Jen Longsine), and then locks horns with bone-crusher Professor Callahan (Tom Webster) and meets up with helpful nice-guy legal assistant, Emmett Forrest (Jacob Grignon). Up pops a seemingly impossible case with a fitness queen, Brooke Wyndham (Hailey Falish), accused of murdering her husband.

Elle gets guidance from Paulette (Sabrina Demaskie, also the music director), the hairdresser whose stomped-upon life turns for the best on visions of Ireland.

The show never quits for action, and the cast is all for it in ensemble movement and character color. At times, the show is akin to an exercise video live as performers take on exercise stuff (“Whipped Into Shape”), cheerleading stuff (“Bend and Snap”), giddy-girl stuff (“Omigod You Guys”) and even Irish dance stuff.

This and that:

+ Two live dogs are in the show, Elle’s “Bruiser” and Paulette’s “Rufus” that Elle helps Paulette reclaim from her ex.

+ At intermission, audience members are invited to the front of the stage to pet the pooches – a first in theatrical experiences around here. No autographs, though.

+ Being a stage show made from a movie, delays for scene changes abound.

+ Some scenes take place on the second level at the rear of the performance space. This is for Elle’s Greek chorus and other ensemble singing, which is bright.

+ Sunday afternoon’s matinee performance was well attended, possibly because of the draw of the title “Legally Blonde.”

+ This is the first musical that Box in the Wood Theatre Guild has put on since 2019, which is B.C. – Before COVID-19.

+ Returning to Maddi Stuewer’s director’s notes. She also tells of having wanted the troupe to put on “Legally Blonde” and thinking, “I would never be able to direct it…” Now a line from a song in the show may apply: “Look how far I’ve come without anyone holding my hand.”

***

Running time: Two hours, 27 minutes

Remaining performances: 7 p.m. July 21-23; 2 p.m. July 24

Info: shawanoarts.com

Creative: Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the motion picture: music and lyrics – Laurence O’Keefe, Neil Benjamin: book – Heather Hach; director – Madeline Stuewer; assistant director – Jillian Black; music director – Sabrina Demaskie; choreographers – Cassie Whitehouse Jen Longsine, Madison Lemerond; costuming – Alana Krolow; set construction – Jillian Black, cast and crew; sound and lights – Peter Kluge

Cast:

Elle Woods – Grace Stuewer

Warner Huntington III – Matt Ogan

Vivienne Kensington – Jen Longsine

Emmett Forest – Jacob Grignon

Enid Hoops – Jaijay Mendoza

Professor Callahan – Tom Webster

Paulette – Sabrina Demaskie

Serena – Leslie Lemerond

Margot – Selah Schmitt

Pilar – Madison Lemerond

Brooke Wyndham – Hailey Falish

Whitney/Chutney – Jillian Black

Elle’s Mom – Bailey Harkey

Elle’s Dad – David Stuewer

Kate – Kersten Zimmerman

Gaelen – Evelyn Smoot

Leilani/Daina – Shaelee Schmidt

Grand Master Chad – Michael Brunner

Aaron Schultz/Nikos – Andrew Mukka

Sir Reginald Richfield – Taylor Small

Judge/Sales Women – Kate Smits

Carlos – Marcus Whitehouse

Kyle/Winthrop – Andy Sturm

Dewey – David Woosencraft

Bruiser – Luna Ogan

Rufus – Gus Harkey

Delta Nu’s, Harvard Students, Marching Band, Cheerleaders, Frat Boys, Greek Chorus, Inmates, Salespeople – Kerstin Goetsch, Eli Popp, Jen Longsine, Jaiyah Mendoza, Leslie Lemerond, Selah Schmitt, Hailey Falish, Bailey Harkey, Evelyn Smoot, Shaelee Schmidt, Michael Brunner, Andrew Mukka, Taylor Small, Kate Smits, Marcus Whitehouse

***

Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)

Act I

“Omigod You Guys” – Margot, Serena, Pilar, Delta Nus, Elle, Shopgirl, Manager

“Daughter of Delta Nu” – Margot, Serena, Pilar, Delta Nus

“Serious” – Warner, Elle

“What You Want” – Elle, Margot, Serena, Pilar, Mom & Dad, Grandmaster Chad, Wintrop, Pforzheimer, Lowell, Delta Nus, Cheer Squad

“The Harvard Variations” – Emmett, Aaron Schultz, Enid Hoopes, Sundeep Padamadan, Law Students

“Blood in the Water” – Callahan and Company

“Positive” – Elle and Greek Chorus

“Ireland” – Paulette

“Ireland” (Reprise) – Paulette

“Serious” (Reprise) – Elle, Warner

“Chip on My Shoulder” – Elle, Emmett, Greek Chorus, Company

“So Much Better” – Elle and Company

Act II

“Whipped into Shape” – Brooke, Callahan, Company

“Take It Like a Man” – Elle, Emmett, Salespeople

“Bend and Snap” – Elle, Paulette, Serena, Margot, Pilar

“There! Right There!” (“Gay or European”) – Elle, Callahan, Emmett, Brooke, Enid, Vivienne, Warner, Judge, Nikos, Carlos, Company

“Legally Blonde” – Elle, Emmett

“Legally Blonde Remix” – Vivienne, Enid, Elle, Company

“Scene of the Crime” – Margot, Serena, Pilar, Judge, Company

“Omigod You Guys” – Elle, Company

“Find My Way/Finale” – Elle, Paulette, Company

***

NEXT: “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, Sept. 23-25, Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

Mielke Pond, 7.17.2022. (Warren Gerds)

THE VENUE: The Mielke Arts Center was dedicated as the Mielke Theatre on Feb. 9, 1976, in the 24-acre Mielke Park on Airport Road north of Shawano in the Town of Westcott. The park includes a picturesque pond adjacent to the parking lot. The building was renamed in 1994. The Shawano County Arts Council maintains and operates the center. The theater is of the “black box” type – unadorned (cinder block walls, painted black, and cement floor, painted gray) and adaptable to the needs of a specific production. Box in the Wood Theatre Guild productions often shift from position to position in the performance space. For “Legally Blondet,” the audience faces the south side of the building. A stage is built a foot or so above the main floor. The audience is seated on floor level in front rows, with a set of slight risers to the rear. The performance area is laid out in a large rectangle; some scenes take place on the side edges of the performance space. The production booth is up and to the left of the audience. This production is another example of how use of the space is flexible.

THE EAGLES: Right outside the entrance on the east side of the building – and up in a pine tree – is an aerie. Bald eagles keep a nest well-kempt. Sometimes they are at home when playgoers come and go. One bald eagle was perched near the top of the pine Sunday afternoon, July 17. Not many theaters anyplace have a home of eagles outside their door in plain sight.

THE PEOPLE: The Mielke Family Foundation was established in 1963 by Dr. Edward F. Mielke and his wife, Beulah (Bee), together with sisters Ruth and Sarah Mielke. A native of Shawano, Dr. Mielke practiced medicine in Appleton for 60 years. Ruth Mielke presided over the library at Appleton West High School for 40 years. Sarah Mielke taught advanced mathematics at Shawano High School.