Working 9 to 5, What a Way to Make a Hit

NMHS production of 9 to 5: The Musical wows the audience and sells out every show.

The energy went up with the curtains Saturday night inside James Africano Auditorium as the young ensemble cast and crew delivered a meticulous, power-packed performance of "9 to 5: The Musical." Written by Patricia Resnick, with lyrics by Dolly Parton, this musical production marks the first time any high school in the country was given license to perform it. 

Given that responsibility, and the heavy emotional and sexual undertones that define "9 to 5," it's hard to imagine a cast of teenagers being able to deliver a credible performance, but this isn't just any ordinary cast of teenagers. These performers rose to the material, brilliantly and affectionately capturing the tone and tenor of the times in a show that was solid and honest.

Despite the show being centered around three female characters and one bigoted male boss, the supporting ensemble cast members achieved pitch-perfect deliveries in their lines and their songs. Mary Costa in a small but memorable role as Missy Hart has an electric wit that no script could capture--her facial expressions and body language alone got the audience laughing.  

In the role of Doralee Rhodes, senior Kassandra Appice roused the audience with her rendition of "Backwoods Barbie." That girl got voice and she held nothing back, bringing the audience to their feet on a number of occasions.

Junior Nichole Francisco as Violet Newsstead delivered a fiesty performance as the widowed office supervisor yearning to be recognized for her achievements only to be continually passed over. Another performer with an incredibly strong voice, Francisco is at home on the stage.

Jennilyn Robles, a senior in the role of Judy Bernly, a new secretary whose husband left her for a his younger secretary, gave a poignant performance about a woman facing her fears and taking them on.

Her clear, crisp voice nearly brought the audience to tears when she sang these lines in "I Just Might,"

"Still, I have to take a chance,
Putting fear and doubt aside,
Had no warning in advance,
Nothing left to do but try."

As the solo male lead, senior Greg Winkler as Franklin Hart holds his own in a cast of very strong and talented women. Any teenage male lead who can play a believable lecherous man and sing the songs his character does in front of an audience of parents and grandparents deserves special applause. He was comically brilliant.

However, the magical moment of the night goes to junior Angela Diekhaus who marks her theater debut in "9 to 5." Diekhaus was not playing the role of Roz Keith, the secretarial spy besotted with her egotistical boss, she became Keith and delivered a performance both scene-stealing comic and heartbreakingly real. Her overt disdain for the other women in the office coupled with her silent aching for Hart, resonated. Her dream sequence with Winkler was performed in perfect sync to the music and the emotion she was conveying in the number "Heart to Hart." 

Directed by Jonathan Silver, NMHS 2005, produced by Alexander Diaz, NMHS 2003, lit by George Milne and orchestrated by Rob McClure, NMHS 2000, this trio of theater talent gave to those lucky enough to see "9 to 5: The Musical" a Broadway quality musical-theater experience.

Choreographer Liberty Cogen, turned every cast member into a seasoned dancer. There was not a beat missed or a step off, especially in the larger numbers. Jim Africano's set design was smart and well-done. The balcony was not only effective in keeping the characters and the story moving from one scene to the next, but also as a place where the ensemble cast could join the main characters in song without crowding the stage. 

This production of "9 to 5: The Musical" is participating in the 2012 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for excellence in the production of high school musicals. Both Silver and McClure were recipients of this award for their appearances in NMHS productions. Silver, McClure and Diaz also received the Helen Hayes Theater Awards as NMHS theater performers. 

Alexander Diaz March 26, 2012 at 09:34 PM
The show was great. A correction to this review has to be made. The lighting design was by George Milne who dedicated countless hours to making sure The lighting and everything else with the production was above par. I thank George personally for giving of his time!
Lori Barton March 26, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Awesome show! What more can I say? Unless you have been to the spectacular shows at NMHS, you just don't understand how good they are. This is not typical high school musical theater...but it IS typical NMHS musical theater. Outstanding in every aspect, Jon and his cast and crew were simply splendid! So sorry it had to end!
Jonathan Silver March 27, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Would like to second Alexander Diaz's comment above -- the lighting design was conceived and carried out by GEORGE MILNE. He was gracious enough to rejoin the production team this year and worked a tremendous amount of hours to help me bring the vision in my head to fruition. Words seem futile when it comes to how grateful I am for sharing his talent and knowledge of theater design and production with myself and my cast. My hope is that this is the beginning of a longstanding collaboration between us. THANK YOU, GEORGE!
Tony Almeada April 04, 2012 at 06:28 PM
reading the comments here reminds me what a boring town I live in - GAWD
Caitlin Hughes May 04, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Hi Jonathan, I'm Caitlin Hughes, I'm the director of a community theatre program in South Jersey. This summer we are doing 9to5. I was looking at pictures from your production and I was wondering if you had anything for rent. I'm interested the most in the small office desks for the girls and typewriters. If they are available could please email me at caitlinhughes1389@gmail.com. Thank you, Caitlin Hughes


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