STONINGTON — The high school Drama Department’s performance of “9 to 5: The Musical,” which opens Friday for a weekend run, is a hilarious and empowering story of friendship and revenge with themes that are relevant to today’s world.
The play is based on the 20th Century Fox motion picture with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and written by Patricia Resnick. Erin Sousa Stanley, drama director at the high school, directs the play, with musical direction by Chris Stanley.
Even though it’s set in 1979, the musical’s theme of empowering women is relevant nearly 40 years later.
The story follows three underpaid and overworked female co-workers who exact revenge on their chauvinistic, egotistical and hypocritical boss. While keeping the boss away from the office, the trio manage to take control of their workplace to make much-needed changes.
Junior Grace Gilbert, 17, plays Violet Newstead, a widowed mother and senior supervisor in the company who has been vying for a promotion, which is given to a man she trained, pushing her to a boiling point.
“She’s kind of sassy and sarcastic,” Gilbert said of her character at dress rehearsal Tuesday. “She’s a one-liner kind of gal.”
Gilbert said the lyrics of “Change It,” one of the musical’s songs, exemplify the “big motto” of the show.
“If you don’t like what’s going on, then change it,” Gilbert said. “That’s the message that the three women are giving out, that ‘we’re not taking this anymore, we’re going to make a change whether you like it or not.’”
Ivy Allik, 17, a senior, plays Judy Bernly, a suddenly-single woman in her 30s who has never worked before.
“I love Judy, she’s just kind of the dorky girl at the office and by the end of the show she really comes into her power,” said Allik.
Lauren DeCarlo, 17, a senior, plays Doralee Rhodes, a country girl who works as the secretary to the office boss, Franklin Hart Jr., who is played by Tyler Stafford, 16, a junior.
“It’s super-fun, she’s the secretary of Hart and she has such a reason to hate him and it’s very fun and empowering to get him for everything he’s done to her,” DeCarlo said. “She’s very energetic and peppy and very country.”
DeCarlo said the play’s themes relate to current events, especially around sexism and abuse of power in the workplace.
“I think the whole girl- and woman-empowerment in the workplace is so relevant today, with the #MeToo movement,” she said. “I think it’s going to touch a lot of people when they go to see it.”
Erin Stanley, the drama director, said she chose the play because it achieved a combination of important goals.
“The number one reason we choose a show is it will serve our students well,” she said. “And it’s also because we have the talent to fill the roles, and we have this powerhouse of women with amazing female voices and I really wanted to showcase them.”
Stanley said the play’s message was also a vehicle to educate students.
“I always try to choose something that does have an educational component to talk about, and so we’ve used these scenarios to talk about our world today and the past and how we’ve grown and what steps we can take to make it better,” she said. “There are some more adult themes but when we encounter those I always use that as a chance to teach the students about making good choices.”
Stanley said the message of empowerment and change was a good lesson for everyone.
“We can have dreams and aspirations and we can want to make a difference and it doesn’t even have to be in our workplace, it can be in our family lives; we can make a difference at school, we can make a difference everywhere,” she said.
Show dates are March 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. and March 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and are available at the high school office during school hours and at the door before all performances. For more information, call 860-599-5781.