The Secret History of the 'WORST Legally Blonde Musical Production EVER'

The video starts with an enthusiastic preteen girl stampeding onstage in a jewel-toned V-neck to an infectious pop beat, inexplicably holding a jumbo-sized pencil. “Dear Elle, he’s a lucky guy/I’m like gonna cry/I’ve got tears coming out of my nose,” she belts off-key, before she’s immediately followed by a bevy of other preteen and teenage girls, also clad in jewel-toned T-shirts, all grabbing the comically oversized pencil, belting out the lyrics of Legally Blonde: The Musical‘s opening number, “Omigod You Guys,” with varying degrees of volume, pitch, and enthusiasm. After stumbling through what exists of the choreography — mostly, walking around in circles and forming a row — a girl wearing a blonde wig and a bright pink cardigan struts out, playing Elle Woods, the character originated by Reese Witherspoon.

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After a salesgirl tries to hoodwink Elle by getting her to buy “last year’s dress at this year’s prices,” the first enthusiastic preteen, now inexplicably dressed in a lab coat, comes out to apologize: “Elle Woods, sorry our mistake/Courtney, take your break, just ignore her, she hasn’t been well” she sings before handing Elle another garment. “It’s a gift from me to El-llle,” she bellows in what is perhaps one of the most spectacular failed belts of all time.

If you are ensconced in the world of Musical Theater Twitter or TikTok, you’re probably familiar with the above clip. Over the years, it has been taken on and off YouTube, and has gone viral under various titles: as “Illegally Blonde: For Your Consideration,” or “Omigod You Guys Feat. All-Star Cast,” or simply as “WORST Legally Blonde Musical Production EVER!”.”

“Everyone who was ever an artsy theater kid kinda knows about it,” says Kathleen Morris, aka “Delta Nu Chorus Girl #3,” a tiny red-haired girl who appears in the video in a purple shirt. It has spawned an Saturday Night Live parody, a Buzzfeed quiz, and so many YouTube amateur musical theater fail productions one starts to wince; the role of Salesgirl #2 has ascended to iconic status, with “Courtney, take your break” becoming something of a meme on Gay Twitter. “The mistakes in it are so innocent and it’s funny. There’s so many small things you can pick out while watching it and rewatching it,” says Taya Seaton, one of the members of the original production (she played the girl in the blue shirt, who fans lovingly refer to as “Jewish Queen” for her line “Dear Elle/honey, mazel tov.”) 

And while the clip has attained such notoriety for being, yes, objectively bad, it transcends typical cringe content status by offering nostalgia to viewers with fond memories of being involved in amateur musical theater. “You watch these videos and you hear a janky pit band or a set half falling apart, but ultimately you still see the passion of these performers and kids,” says Ryan Bloomquist, who created the “Courtney Take Your Break” meme when he made a compilation of the solo from various amateur productions. “I know how important theater was and is to me growing up, so to see that shine through in those videos warms my heart.”

https://youtube.com/watch?v=cleiHJo2kLI%3Ffeature%3Doembed

Despite the immense virality of the clip, up until now the identity of its young actors has been unknown, as has the history of the production. Numerous misconceptions have circulated about it, such as that it was a college-level production (it was an amateur children’s theater company production, staged at a theater at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada); or that the actor playing Elle was actually an adult teacher (they weren’t; they were just tall). Rumors have circulated about an elusive full version of the production being unlisted on YouTube (it is not), and former cast members told me they have been harassed at length to post it. It has, improbably, ascended to legendary status, albeit within a small sphere of musical theater-obsessed internet denizens.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original Legally Blonde movie, Rolling Stone tracked down the original performers and crew members behind what is perhaps the most notorious YouTube amateur musical theater clip of all time. Many were thrilled to talk about what it was like to go viral for a cringe childhood memory; others, not so much.

“I have received hundreds upon hundreds of emails about this stupid video, hundreds of phone calls, read thousands of disgusting comments on YouTube and more,” says Manda Chelmak, the producer of the original production. “And, truthfully it’s boring. It has made me realize how empty and soulless most people are. It’s sad, really.” Another former performer in the production, now 25, burst into tears when Rolling Stone informed them the video had been parodied on SNL. “That’s some of the most devastating news I’ve ever received in my lifetime,” they say. “I’ve been ashamed of that performance for years.”

This is the story of how a five-minute promotional clip for a small-town Canadian community theater production became a viral sensation — but perhaps more importantly, in an era where it has never been easier for someone to achieve instantaneous internet fame, it’s the story of what it’s like to go viral at a very young age for all the wrong reasons.

#stitch with @jammin_wben i hope this finds the right people. #courtneytakeyourbreak #omigodyouguys #legallyblonde #acting #drama #fyp

♬ original sound – 😎😎😎