By Brennan Felbinger
20 Jun 2013
Over the past week I had the pleasure of observing the Riverside Children's Theatre of Vero Beach, FL workshop the upcoming junior edition of the Broadway musical Legally Blonde. All of the kids were there just to have fun; they had no idea what an important thing they were a part of. They were helping to create a new musical.
Each of them would be participating in only 26 hours of rehearsal — 30, including casting — and the actual performance. The show featured 14 musical numbers with choreography. This left the students with an incredibly rigorous production schedule fit into just one week.
iTheatrics, which adapts Broadway musicals into shorter, "junior" productions for performance by elementary, middle and high school students, has worked with the authors of all of the original shows to create adaptations which are easier and more accessible to produce at children's theatres. Almost all of these adaptive processes have been overseen by Timothy Allen McDonald, founding chairman of iTheatrics, Marty Johnson, resident director for iTheatrics and Lindsay Lupi, resident musical director.
"We work to make the small adjustments, but in the end all final approval goes to each of the authors of the musicals. We never make decisions without keeping the original intention of the author," Johnson said.
The time it takes for each junior version to be workshopped and adapted to fit a school or children's theatre stage varies, depending on the subject matter and difficulty of the original production. Edits have to be made for content, length and even gender ratio. Johnson and Lupi keep in mind the fact that most school drama clubs and children's theatres will have more females than males to cast from. The Riverside edition was no different; only five boys came to audition.
In terms of content, it's no secret that the original Broadway version of Legally Blonde contains a lot of sexual innuendo and adult material, which may seem rather difficult to strip while still keeping the plot and main themes intact. For example, in the original version, one of the characters, Enid Hoopes, has a whole subplot of lesbian tendencies that were removed for the Junior version.Continued...