Tonawanda News

November 14, 2013

North Tonawanda High presents '9 to 5' musical

NTHS' Kenny-Award-nominated musical opens tonight

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — With the click of heels (and typewriter keys), students at North Tonawanda High School step into the working world of the 1970s tonight with the opening of “9 to 5 The Musical” in the school’s Alumni Student Activity Center. 

The show, which takes place today, Friday and Saturday, is based on the 1980 movie of the same name, about Consolidated Industries employees Violet, Judy and Doralee and their efforts to deal with their odious boss, company president Franklin Hart Jr. It’s all set to music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, one of the stars of the original movie.

With the strong trio of female roles, it’s a great show for a largely female cast, said Marisa Zakes, a senior and president of the Drama Club, who plays Judy.

“I really like the show because we have a lot of girls this year,” she said, commenting that previous years’ musicals have focused more on male actors and roles. “This year, it’s all girls. It’s all about women power. It’s great.”

To Zakes, Judy, a newcomer to the show’s office setting, is the most dynamic of the female leads. “She goes from this timid, meek girl to ‘hear me roar.’ ‘I’m not taking crap from anyone any more.’ “

On another point of that main triangle is Violet, the take-charge office manager, played by senior Emma Balen.

“She’s the one everyone goes to and looks to for advice. She’s the mom of the office,” Balen said. “That was hard for me, I’m not really that type -- but I like being a leader, and that was easy to slip into.”

Third of the group is the Parton-originated role of Doralee, who is played by senior Ashley Arsenault with the role’s iconic blond locks.

“She’s probably the most fun character in the musical, because she gets to let loose and do whatever comes to her mind,” Arsenault said of Doralee. “She’s just over the top in the every positive way. She’s the nicest person, and the most honest also.”

While Doralee is fun to play, one part of the role was “terrifying,” she said; the country accent with which the character speaks. Arsenault said she tried to make it real without being too outlandish, ultimately patterning it after Parton’s real-life accent.

“You don’t want it to be too country,” she said. “Once I got it down, it was so much fun. Who else gets to say ‘Yee ha!’ as often as I do?”

Opposite this trio stands junior Joshuah Conlan, who plays the villain of the piece, Hart, the “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot” boss.

It’s a challenge, Conlan said, because not only is it completely opposite his own character, but also utterly different from his role of Hero in last year’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

“Throw all that innocence out the window ... and that’s what my character is this year,” Conlan said. “It’s been difficult at times to be able to channel him. 

“But this is an excellent opportunity and I love it. It’s one of the most fun roles I’ve ever had.”

Aiding and abetting Hart is his assistant, Roz, played by Victoria Stauffiger.

“She is very much out of my comfort zone,” Stauffinger said of the role. “She wants to be in everybody’s business. She wants to know everything. She’s constantly two steps behind Franklin Hart.

“I tell everyone in the cast, if Roz Keith was a real person, I’d hate her,” she admitted. “But I like the character I play. I’m really enjoying it.”

Director Dean Vallas said that when selecting the annual musical, the creative team always takes a look at what talent is likely to be available for the show. This year’s cast is incredible in their roles, especially the three main female leads, he said.

“Vocally, we have the right mix of kids to do this show,” he said, adding that he believes NT is one of first schools in Western New York to take on the musical. “It’s really a lot of work they do to get in those roles. They are really hard workers.”

For the first time this year, the NTHS musical is a nominee for this year’s Kenny Awards at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, which honor excellence in local high school musicals. Judging committee members attend the finalists’ musical productions and make their final selections, which will be announced in May.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "9 to 5 The Musical" • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday • WHERE: North Tonawanda High School, Alumni Student Activity Center, 405 Meadow Drive, North Tonawanda • COST: Tickets are $7 for all shows. They can be purchased at the door or presale by calling 807-3644.