Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy is turning the spotlight on young talent in southwestern Ontario with its inaugural high school musical production.

The youth-centred program is getting ready to bring "Legally Blonde: The Musical" to life at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse from Feb. 15 to the 26.

The musical is based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie following the plight of sorority president Elle Woods after she is dumped by her boyfriend and strives to win him back by attending Harvard Law.

After almost 100 young people went through multiple rounds of interviews, auditions, and callbacks, Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy whittled down their team to 35 cast members and 15 crew members.

“They’re from 15 different high schools in southwestern Ontario as far away as Stratford,” "Legally Blonde: The Musical" director and choreographer David Connolly explained. “We have someone from London, we have someone from the Six Nations reserve, and so we’re very excited to bring all these big fish from little ponds into a much bigger pond and hopefully create a community that they’ll stay with for the rest of their lives.”

The academy is an offshoot of Drayton Entertainment geared toward instilling a love of the arts in young people.

“We believe that arts education provides parallel life skills; not only are you learning how to sing, and dance, and act or work backstage but you’re learning how to work together as a team, you’re learning how to take criticism, you’re learning things like self-worth and belonging,” Connolly says.

For many of the young people preparing to bring the musical to life, the overall experience is about more than just what the audience will see on stage.

James Wright will be taking on the role of the villainous Professor Callahan and said: “It’s been a very nice experience to be able to see how everything works. I’ve always been interested in it for a while, so it’s just very nice.”

MacKenna Van Massenhoven has been cast as fan favourite hair stylist Paulette, and said the experience has been very educational.

“I knew that coming to Waterloo it would be a bigger pool, there’d be more people that would have more experience than me and I was just so excited to be exposed to all that because I knew that I would learn so much about the industry and myself and how to expand my talents and how to be inspired by other people.”

Massenhoven adds: “Everyone is so friendly, and everyone is bonding because this is what we all love to do. We all already have something in common so it’s super easy to make friends because everyone is here for the same reason and everyone is super kind so it’s been a really nice experience.”

“The stage is where I love to be and it’s what I want to do with the rest of my life,” she says.

Tickets can be purchased online by clicking here.