“Ohmigod!” Roosevelt Middle School’s Spring Musical Hits the Stage at WOHS After Auditorium Wall Collapses

RMS’s production of Legally Blonde Jr. featuring an interview from Mrs. Tracy Gordon


On April 28 the Roosevelt Middle School Drama Club wowed the crowd in a humorous, sassy- and pink rendition of Legally Blonde. Legally Blonde Jr. is based off of the hit broadway show and iconic film, Legally Blonde. The show centered around the iconic Elle Woods, Delta Nu president and fashion expert. After her boyfriend dumps her for not being “serious” enough Elle works her way into Harvard, hoping to win him back.  At Harvard, Elle discovers that she is strong and independent and not just a “dumb blonde” like so many see her.  From opening night on Friday to a Sunday matinee the cast sang their way through Harvard and onto the witness stand, proving that not only should you not judge a book by its cover but also that a broken auditorium wall is no match for the RMS Drama team. 


Earlier this month the back wall of the Roosevelt Middle School auditorium (where the musical was supposed to be held) unexpectedly fell in. Rendering it unfit to host the spring musical. In a scramble to keep the show on its feet, West Orange High School Opened its doors to the RMS drama club, lending the stage to the eager 7th and 8th graders. 


It was Wednesday, April 19, a bit over a week before opening night when school staff at Roosevelt noticed a bulge in the plaster behind the stage. About a five by five foot plaster section behind the stage had peeled down. Under usual circumstances this wouldn’t have aroused much worry. The middle school itself was built in 1932, as its inching closer to 100 years old some original structures may need more maintenance. However, with a week before the annual Spring Musical, set to be performed on this stage, staff weren’t open to taking many chances. Maintenance workers were called to investigate the wall. Tracy Gordon, director of the musical and science teacher at Roosevelt, explained, “They were nervous and afraid that the rest of the… [plaster] wall would start to come down.” Soon it was decided that the stage couldn’t be used for the Musical. 


Immediately, Mr. Lionel Hush, Roosevelt Principal, contacted Liberty Middle School and West Orange High to see if either of their stages would be available to utilize for the performance. By 12 that afternoon the High School had said yes, and just a few short hours later the entire cast and crew began packing up their set, costumes, and props into bins which would be transported to the highschool the next morning. “In less than 24 hours we get every prop, every scenery, every costume to the highschool,” recalls Gordon, “everything was on the stage…by one o-clock the very next day.” With all of the props and costumes transferred to the highschool auditorium the only thing left to do was figure out how to get the cast and crew there. 


Students had been used to walking a short 3 minutes from class to rehearsals after school, now their stage was nearly 15 minutes away. Wednesday afternoon it was arranged that every afternoon a bus would pick up all students and drive them to the highschool where parents would then pick students up at night after rehearsals. “We did a lot of carpooling,” says Gordon, “we had a couple of issues where parents couldn’t pick up their kids from the highschool.” She credits transportation as the biggest obstacle they had to face with the location change. 


Once a regular rehearsal schedule was set up the Drama Club had to physically adjust to their new stage. It was big, really big. Their set had been designed to fit the measurements of the Roosevelt Auditorium so what felt like the center of the stage at Roosevelt really looked like the back of the stage at WOHS due to the increased depth of the stage, Gordon explains. The first two days after the location change Gordon spent, “reblocking and repositioning choreography” so that the cast filled up the entire stage. 


Of course the new venue also came with its advantages, “One of the best parts about moving up to the high school was the sounds and the lights” Gordon says, “It’s nothing like compared to Roosevelt.” In previous years productions at Roosevelt have been limited to rentable equipment which restricts the amount of electricity and time equipment can use. 


“As soon as the kids found out they were excited and thrilled to be on the stage.” Gordon explained that she was worried about the “huge undertaking” so when the cast got excited about the move “that, to us, kind of said, you know what, nevermind let’s just go…it’s going to be fine.” 


Grier Norris who performed as Margot, described the transition as “Pretty frantic at first…it was definitely a little scary because we didn’t know how many people would be there and it was a big transition from our smaller stage,” For many cast members Legally Blonde Jr. was their first experience with live theater. Typically, a dress rehearsal and “teaser” is performed the day before opening night for students and staff at Roosevelt. So when the musical was forced to transition to the highschool such a performance was up in the air. 


On Thursday April 27th,  a bus took students to the High School at 9:00 am. There, a group of around 150 people, including all of the cast of Grease, Mr. Hellyer’s chorus class, and some teacher’s children who were at the highschool for “Take your child to work day,” gathered to watch an impromptu”teaser.”


The welcoming environment of the highschool was “good for the students because they were able to finally perform in front of an audience,” since then the musical had only been performed in front of Ms. Martin (the Chorus teacher and Musical Director) and Gordon herself. After the teaser Gordon recalls that a group of former Roosevelt students who had performed in the High School’s production of Grease went up to the stage to speak with the cast. “They…lifted them up” says Gordon who acknowledges that their support “ helped [to]…alleviate any fears or any nervousness that they [the cast] had.” 


“We made the best of it,” concluded Norris, “we adapted pretty well.”


In fact, despite the auditorium hiccup the Drama club had been doing very well this year. Legally Blonde Jr. was the first school production that had been carried out with a “traditional schedule of workshop, audition and rehearsals” since the Pandemic canceled the 2020 rendition of High School Musical, weeks before opening night. This year 46 students made up the entire cast and crew of the production, the largest number in 8 years. Last year there were only 32. Gordon mentions that ticket sales went up this year as well.   


The quick thinking and teamwork between West Orange High School and Roosevelt along with hard work and dedication of students, staff and parents, Legally Blonde proved to be smashing success.