Review: 9 to 5: The Musical at Rock Ridge High School

By Sophie Stapleton, Loudoun Valley High School

A wide array of neon hues washed the stage. The growl of a bluesy electric guitar filled the auditorium. Dolly Parton’s southern drawl announced each character as they sashayed into view. It was then, as anticipation and energy bounced off the walls, that we knew Rock Ridge High School was about to take us on a wild ride.

9 to 5: The Musical tells the story of three unsatisfied women and their journey to becoming strong, independent women. Based off of the 1980 movie, with music and lyrics by the iconic Dolly Parton, the production received fifteen Drama Desk Award nominations in one year, along with four Tony Awards nominations.

Boiling over with energy and pizzazz, Lauren Janoschka (Violet Newstead) showed immense skill, which was evident in numbers such as One of the Boys; her ability to execute high-level choreography and belt for three minutes straight spoke volumes of her talent. Right next to her was Katie Howard (Judy Bernly); she developed her character’s story arc with maturity and grace. If her stellar acting chops were not impressive enough, Howard’s vocal range was high enough to shatter the glass ceiling’. The third in this great trio of strong women was Megan Buss (Doralee Rhodes). With a voice as smooth as butter, Buss delivered a fun and goofy performance, recreating Dolly Parton’s iconic role with spunk.

Though awkward at first, Nico Zavala (Joe) exuded a sweet charisma that caused the audience to root for him in his constant pursuit of his love interest, and his silky voice captured hearts. Together, Zavala and Janoschka created a genuine, honest relationship with an even development throughout the show.

Farley McDaniel (Franklin Hart Jr.) was faced with a challenging feat when diving into his misogynistic, immoral character, but he delivered it with style. His energy, commitment, and comedic timing made the audience cringe in the best way possible.

Altogether, the ensemble enhanced the show with near flawless execution of multiple-part harmonies, gorgeous vocal blending, and show-stopping choreography. They were in sync, passionate, and working as one unit, which took the production to an entirely new level.

With over 200 props and a multi-faceted set, it is an absolute wonder that all the elements and each transition worked together so seamlessly. As various people came down center stage, silhouetted by colorful lights meant to set the mood, they told a story through dance; this provided the perfect distraction from the seemingly unblemished set changes taking place behind them. One such dancer was Elle Ouimet (Maria); her gorgeous technique was breathtaking. Attention to detail regarding the set made the production that much more aesthetically pleasing and technically impressive.

Adding to the aesthetics of the production were the stunning lights. Each wall, dance number, or soft moment was punctuated flawlessly with jewel-toned LEDs and frolicking spotlights. Matching colors with characters’ personalities and coordinating with costumes, the lights made a lovely spectacle for the audience to enjoy.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of all was the professional-level choreography by Savannah Sides. Each movement was clean, crisp, and completely meshed with the story; entirely by herself, Sides put together masterpieces of musical splendor.

Consistently high energy, intense focus, acute attention to detail, and admirable tech elements worked together to beautifully envelop the audience and leave them wanting more.

[This review of the Dec. 1 performance at Rock Ridge High School  is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]

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