by Semira Arora (’25) and Anusha Jain (’25) | February 14, 2022
From November 17, 2021 to January 29, 2022, forty-two students spent over two hundred hours putting together the student-run show 9 to 5: The Musical. But what exactly happened behind the curtains?
Director Sarah Vorrath (’22) selected this musical because she “loved the music, the theme of friendship, and especially the message of female empowerment.” Moderator Mrs. Nancy Yang, similarly enjoyed the musical’s storyline because she found the production’s satirical humor an empowering medium for addressing and presenting its serious social issues to the student body. She also always admired Dolly Parton and was excited to help produce a jukebox musical featuring her work.
During the months leading up to the performance, the cast, crew, and artistic staff members formed a close-knit community with one another. Alexander Eiger (’23), who played sexist and egotistical company president Franklin Hart, mentioned that “with all your friends in charge, you have closer connections. It’s a lighter atmosphere that is very supportive.”
Aashka Trivedi (’24), who played prospective and eventual CEO Violet Newstead, said that the musical included so many “young, artistic voices” that added to its creativity. Everyone was open to suggestions and had an opportunity to add their own creative spin.
Rehearsals first began with a combination of learning dances, practicing vocals, and blocking scenes. Choreographer Hannah Valencia (’22) was inspired by Broadway, past productions, and her experience as a dancer. Being able to “see what she choreographed in her bedroom on stage” was a gratifying experience, she said.
For vocals, Justine Emerson (’22) taught the performers through both online recordings and in-person practice with the cast. Vorrath also taught the cast members blocking and vocal delivery for scenes.
The backstage crew was also essential in producing the show. Elsa Ying (’23), a set change director, recalled how she “worked on creating a fake Xerox machine,” while others “were finding props in the basement/props room and…spiking the sets.”
Maria Ana (’23), who played Hart’s secretary Doralee Rhodes, described her experience as a lead: “This student-run musical was probably one of my favorites that I have ever done. It was very beautiful seeing [the artistic staff] take control and have a voice. The effort we all put into 9 to 5 is beyond anything I have witnessed in any production.”
One challenge actors faced was balancing the dichotomy between their own personality and that of their character. Gabriella Federighi (’23), who played new employee Judy Bernly, explained that her character was “very emotional, perhaps annoying, yet somewhat sympathetic. It was difficult to fight the urge to make her more likable.”
As the costumes director, Federighi also researched different productions and interpretations of the show extensively and consolidated her ideas in a Google Doc to inspire the cast. “I wanted each person to get to choose something they felt confident and comfortable in,” she revealed.
The show also required an extensive time commitment, especially during the latter half of January. “Closer to the show, the schedule was kind of crazy,” continued Federighi. “But I was putting on a show with my friends, so it didn’t feel like work.”
But the hours were all worth it in the end. “Everyone fits their role so well,” added Federighi. “The talent and positive energy of the cast and creative team were unmatched.”
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