Every year, Judy Russell’s Enchainement Dance Studio presents a summer musical to be rivalled by the rest of Prince George’s entertainment population. Following the heels of 2017’s Anne of Green Gables success, 2018 saw the preparation and performance of Legally Blonde: The Musical. As these musicals have come and gone, sharing laughter, tears, and dance with the populace of Prince George, one thing is has become increasingly clear: staff, alumni, and students of the University of Northern British Columbia have become an instrumental part of these musical productions.
Boasting the inclusion of individuals such as Arielle Bernier, who founded UNBC’s Musical Production Club in 2011, as well as Veronica Church, the club’s current president, Legally Blonde’s roster is further abundant with faces familiar to the university. In total, there are eleven cast members this year proudly affiliated with the university, according to their program introductions, not to mention that one of UNBC’s own professors, Dr. Tracy Summerville, acts as Stage Manager/Assistant to the Directors this year. Last, but certainly not least, the musical’s lead role of the precocious Elle Woods is played by Shelby Meaney, whose travels took her to eastern Canada to study musical theatre before she returned to study at UNBC. Another dynamic lead role, Elle’s flippant ex-boyfriend Warner, is occupied by UNBC Masters’ student Franco Celli, who is deeply involved in the UNBC Musical Productions Club’s performances throughout the year. These actors are featured alongside prominent figures across Canada’s musical stage as well as public figures beloved by the community. Kyle Sampson, an alumni who is currently running to be the youngest person on Prince George’s city council, shares the stage, as well as musical veterans such as Catherine Hansen McCarthy from Brampton, Ontario, Madison Hill from Oakville, Ontario, and Padraig Hogan from Nanaimo, BC.
Based on the novel and film of the same name, Legally Blonde: The Musical is nothing to be sneezed at in terms of popular musicals, either. The original show, written by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin, and Heather Hach, blew through California and Broadway’s West End in 2007, grossing more than $1,000,000 per week on multiple occasions. The winner and nominee of numerous Laurence Olivier Awards, as well as the Best New Musical Award, Judy Russell’s performances stayed true to the high energy singing and dancing that are to be expected of such a fast-paced success.
Without a doubt, the involvement of UNBC students in Judy Russell productions has not only provided an entertaining avenue for students looking to connect with their community, but exemplifies one of the many platforms available to students in Prince George who wish to beat the summer blues. With a multitude of students acting and dancing in local musicals comes throngs of friends and family who attend Judy Russell’s shows in support of their loved ones. This is a mutual boost for the studio and the students, as it contributes to the often sold-out Judy Russell shows, while further ingraining the University of Northern British Columbia as something more than the “academy on the hill.” Instead, UNBC and its students can be viewed as scholars and showmen in their own rights. It was a pleasure to see the students of UNBC so heavily involved with the community this year, and I look forward to see what will become of our school’s relationship with Prince George’s entertainment sphere.