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At a "Legally Blonde, Jr." rehearsal, director Zach Martowski (left) and musical director Joe Oblon stand with Caylie Whiteside of Berlin, who will be playing Elle Woods, and Zoey the dog, who will be playing Bruiser. | Mark Dionne / Town Times

CRHS grads are bringing “Legally Blonde, Jr.” to state

Two Coginchaug Regional High School graduates and alums of District 13 stages are members of the production team bringing “Legally Blonde, Jr.” to Connecticut for the first time.

Zach Martowski of Durham is the director and Joe Oblon of Middlefield is the musical director for the show, which is the third of four sessions at Meriden Youth Theater’s 2014 Musical Theater Camp.

“Legally Blonde, Jr.” is not the first time Martowski and Oblon have worked on a play together. That would be a 2002 production of “Annie” at John Lyman Elementary School where, as fourth and fifth grade students, they shared the role of Daddie Warbucks. That was the first play for Oblon, who also auditioned to be an orphan, not realizing that the orphans were all girls. Martowski, a year older, had already been in MYT productions.

Both continued performing into high school. Oblon and Martowski were in “Once Upon a Mattress” together at CRHS in 2008. Oblon was also in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 2010 and Martowski was in “Beauty and the Beast” in 2006.

Outside of school, they spent time at MYT, shifting from performers to assistants to counselors. “I’ve been with MYT pretty much my whole life,” Martowski said.

MYT performs shows in the fall and spring of the school year in addition to the summer shows.

According to Martowski, MYT staffers were prepared to put on the full version of “Legally Blonde” in just two weeks, but the junior version came out at the end of June and MYT became the first theater company in Connecticut and just the twelfth in the country to stage the musical.

“We were lucky,” said choreographer Chantel Martin of Meriden about the timing.

Junior editions are versions of shows that have been shortened and edited for content to make them more appropriate for younger audiences and performers.

The show launched on Broadway in 2007, adapted from the Reese Witherspoon 2001 comedy. Both Oblon and Martowski said they were happy with the adaptation, which keeps much of the story and music intact.

Several songs and some risqué jokes, characters, and story lines have been cut or reduced, including the crowd-pleasing courtroom production number “There! Right There!”

“That one hurt,” Martowski said.

Much of the cast is familiar with the missing material. “A lot of the older ones have seen the movie,” said Martin. Many members of the cast also own a lot of Broadway albums, which do not come in junior versions.

For a cast of grades 7-12, Oblon said, “we pick a show that is challenging and a little mature ... they’re ready now and it’s their turn to do the show.”

Three days before their first performance, Martowski said the cast was doing great and they were helped by experience and the schedule. “You’re here every day and it comes together really quickly,” said Martowski. “It’s a lot to do in two weeks.”

All three members of the production team said that the dance-heavy show and Monday to Friday schedule helped the cast tackle the show. “They do not slack. They rise,” Martin said.

Both Oblon and Martowski plan to teach. Oblon has a B.S. in Education and a B.A. in Biology from UConn and will pursue a Fifth Year Master’s in Education from UConn with plans to be a science teacher, teaching theater on the side.

“We come to work every day to work on the show, but that’s just the vehicle to teach confidence, teamwork, respect, and responsibility,” Oblon said.

Martowski has a B.A. in History from UConn and a graduate degree in education from the University of New Hampshire and plans to be a middle or high school teacher. Martowski continued acting after CRHS and recently performed in “Avenue Q” with the Castle Craig Players in Meriden. Directing, Martowski said, only makes him miss performing “a little.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. public performance of “Legally Blonde, Jr.” on Aug. 8 at Mountain Mist Camp at 576 High Hill Road, Meriden. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door.

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