Underclassman Stars as Elle in Legally Blonde


Nikki Iyer

Sophomore Lisa Gnielinski recently starred as Elle Woods in the Legally Production at SJHHS. Before that, she was Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz at the Moonlight Amphitheatre. Gnielinski is grateful for her theater opportunities, and is excited to continue to expand her knowledge in the industry.

Nikki Iyer, News Editor

450 people. Waiting. Watching. 

It may be difficult to perform to so many people, but sophomore Lisa Gnielinski makes it look easy. The Swiss-German immigrant recently starred as Elle Woods in the production Legally Blonde at SJHHS.

Even as an underclassman, Gnielinski played the lead role in SJHHS’s first production of the 2022 year.

 “Our theater department at San Juan shows no division between the different grade levels and together there is a great bond throughout the community. This show actually brought me even closer with all the juniors and seniors, bringing many incredible people in my life. Yes many are older and yes, I felt very intimidated at first, however together we brought this show to life,” said Gnielinski.

Regardless of grade, the cast formed a tight bond throughout the span of the production, sharing many memories on set.

“For me personally there isn’t one specific moment in the production that is the best, because there are way too many. Like when the curtains would first come up and the orchestra begins playing the opening ‘Omigod You Guys’, because we know what is about to happen but the audience doesn’t, or that moment of pride for yourself and everyone involved in the production when taking bows at the end for once again bringing this story to life, inspiring even more people,” said Gnielienksi.

With a raw talent for the trade, Gnielinski took her first musical theater class in Switzerland at 10 years old, and has been pursuing theater since. A consistent training schedule and dedicated mindset has paved the way for her young success.

“The rehearsal schedule was pretty rigorous and we spent many hours in the dance rooms or in the theater after school. Especially as we got closer and closer to tech week and opening, the hours of vocal lessons, dance calls, blocking rehearsals became more and more frequent and every day was spent working on this show. Tech week was the most because we spent every day from 3-9 in the theater working,” said Gnielinski. 

While she may have been performing for years, the nerves certainly haven’t disappeared for Gnielinski. However, her performer nature allows her to relax and settle once she walks on stage.

“The nerves appear the most right before the show starts when the audience is introduced to the show. However for me personally once the show starts and I am performing on stage I am in my own world and all I think the entire time is how much I love performing! These nerves always make an appearance right before the show and it never really gets easier, but I have learned to look over those nerves and to just focus on other things,” said Gnielinski.

Filling the shoes of original actor Reese Witherspoon isn’t easy, but Gnielinski excels in the role. She feels very connected to Elle as at age 15 has lived in three different countries, Switzerland, Germany, and America, so Gnielinski relates to Elle through personality, style, and struggle. 

“Becoming Elle Woods showed me how similar we truly are. She is quirky, bubbly, and a little naive at times. Elle and I also share a deep love for fashion, not caring about what the world thinks. Determined, she goes to Harvard and experiences a whole new crowd of people. I have moved around a lot in my life and I have had to go through similar struggles, so I can understand what she is going through,” said Gnielinski. 

However, Legally Blonde isn’t Gnielinski’s first major production. Recently, she starred as Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz at the Moonlight Ampitheatre

The amphitheater used sets and costumes from the original Madison Square Garden Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz, and was directed by Broadway actor and eminent director Geno Carr.The actors of this specific production were all 17 years and younger, yet surpassed all expectations of the limits of youth. Their opening night sold 1,600 tickets, breaking youth production records at the amphitheater. The opportunity to perform in an amphitheater made Gnielinski even more excited to showcase her talents at SJHHS.The Legally Blonde production ended successfully, with closing night completely sold out. The theater department is now working on their next production, Nine Girls. Tickets can be purchased on their ticketing website.