Theater Review: The BHS PAC’s Production of 9 to 5
By Elisabeth Pitts
Despite mic malfunctions and an electrical issue in the school’s fire alarm system that forced the cast, crew, and audience members to evacuate in the middle of the second act on Sunday night and brave the cold outside, the BHS PAC’s production of 9 to 5 was an ambitious, high-energy success. The leads took the script’s handful of profound moments surrounding the conversation about gender equality and harassment in the workplace, a topic that is sadly still very current, and carried them far beyond the scenes in which they appeared, creating a feeling of solidarity between the cast and audience members that lead to standing ovations every night.
In the role of Franklin Hart, the misogynistic, lecherous boss at Consolidated Industries, senior Evan Wagner succeeded in making everyone wildly uncomfortable with the stomach-churning “Here For You”. A difficult song to execute if done with any hint of embarrassment, Wagner proved to be an unapologetic and dynamic performer with an intimidating stage presence. This role is a far cry from the charming, witty characters he has embodied in BHS PAC productions of years past, and speaks to his indisputable versatility as an actor.
Senior Miriam Cubstead was in her acting element as Judy Bernly, perhaps the most sympathetic and developed character in the entire production. Judy’s journey from a meek housewife to an assertive and truly compassionate professional is one of many ups and downs, and Cubstead deftly and compellingly navigated the at-times awkward script. In a moment of pure confidence, she delivered a brilliant rendition of Judy’s ballad “Get Out and Stay Out” that had several audience members discreetly tearing up. As a veteran member of the BHS PAC with a Best Featured Actress nomination from the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild, Cubstead is an acting force to be reckoned with.
Dolly Parton’s iconic platinum blonde hair and a lilting Southern accent transformed senior Olivia Pierce into the kind hearted and glamorous Doralee Rhodes, Franklin Hart’s long-suffering secretary. Pierce’s command of her agile and rich alto gave us the beautiful, nuanced performances of “Backwoods Barbie” and “Shine Like The Sun”, and she delivered the classic “rooster to a hen” line with the ovation-worthy determination of the original. Every song and scene she was in exuded energy and the kind of effortless charisma that made Dolly Parton’s Doralee such a mainstay in 80’s pop culture, and Pierce’s outstanding performance was the kind that keeps audiences returning to that story time and time again.
As the no-nonsense Violet Newstead, senior Anelise Allen was bold and graceful, delighting the audience with her impressive dance repertoire and powerful soprano. Her comedic timing was fantastic and she commanded the stage with the confidence and wit of a professional. Alongside her as love interest Joe was junior Sammy Haines, who gave dimension and personality to a character that may have fallen flat had it been in the hands of a less skilled actor. A particularly touching moment was Violet and Joe’s duet “Let Love Grow” and this is truly where each performer’s strengths shined as both singers and actors. With voices so perfectly matched and chemistry that believable, it’s no wonder Allen and Haines were able to execute one of the best numbers in the production.
Senior Becca Schwartz was excellent as Roz Keith, the only woman infatuated with Franklin Hart, and her subtly exaggerated rendition of “Heart to Hart” was definitely a highlight of the show. It’s a shame Roz only gets one belting song because Schwartz’s vocals were absolutely incredible.
With choreography by the forever talented Jenny Lifson, the Featured Dancers were an enthusiastic and spectacular addition to the cast. Honorable mentions go to seniors Raffi Manjikian and Amelia Ickes, and freshman Jacob Geiger, three incredible high-energy dancers who especially stood out in “9 to 5” and “One Of The Boys”.
The costumes and set, designed and created entirely by a team of students, were bright, well-designed, and cheerfully reminiscent of the 80’s depicted in Hollywood movies of the time. The pit orchestra, conducted by Mrs. Reavey, was vibrant and brought the action on stage to life. On the student production team, assistant stage managers Adrine Kaligian and Lilly Palkimas juggled school and a demanding show schedule that involved everything from taking detailed notes during rehearsals to tracking the attendance of every single cast member. Stage managers Sam Lubarr and Georgia Sundahl and assistant director Nick Borelli also had a hand in the creation of this magnificent production, keeping everything organized and offering staging ideas for scenes. Finally, it goes without saying that the show wouldn’t have been half as good without the patient and creative direction of Mr. Flam, who voluntarily teaches high school theater and somehow manages to outdo himself each year with the musical. This year was no exception. Congratulations to the incredibly talented cast and crew of 9 to 5!