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Penn State Thespians Return To The Stage With ‘9 To 5’

Following its performance of “Little Women” this past fall semester, the Penn State Thespian Society is back again to present its latest production: “9 To 5: The Musical”

The jukebox musical opened on Broadway in 2009. Based on the 1980 film of the same name, the show’s music and lyrics are penned by famed country singer Dolly Parton.

The story follows Doralee, Judy, and Violet, working in a typical 1970s office. The three despise their sexist, egocentric boss, Franklin, who runs their company with a dominant hand, treating his female employees without any respect. When the trio decides they’re fed up with his treatment, they take action by plotting their revenge.

The show is headlined by a trio of powerful female leads, each bringing their characters to life onstage in unique and charming ways. Julie Byrne plays Violet, Katie Walker plays Judy, and Cailie Shanks plays Doralee.

In addition to playing the lead role of Violet, Julie Byrne also serves as the Thespians’ president. Byrne discussed how exciting it is to bring a big show back to the program, especially after the pandemic shut down live entertainment before last fall.

“We haven’t had a show this big since ‘Young Frankenstein,’” Byrne said. “So, it’s really exciting to have this ensemble show with so many dance numbers and introduce these new members to our club with such a great show.”

Director Emma Cagle echoed Byrne’s sentiments, citing the high energy, impressive choreography, and comedy aspects as draws of the show.

“I think it has brought back a super lively spirit to everything,” Cagle said. “It’s been a show that’s pulled people up out of where we’ve been for the last two and a half here, making things fun and meaningful at the same time, which is something Thespians does best.”

The story of “9 To 5” seeks to empower women across generations. Cast members and crew alike talked about the show’s importance.

“Our club really values lifting up and empowering women’s voices,” Byrne said. “It’s such an honor to do that, especially during Women’s History Month. Being able to put on this show in the 2022 world we live in is just awesome and beautiful.”

Cagle talked about the empowerment of having multiple female leads working together to empower one another.

“At the beginning, all three of them have lost their voice dealing with all the things at the office, but by the end of it, they find that they are louder together,” Cagle said. “That’s the most meaningful part of it. It’s not just one strong woman that fights back on office norms. It’s about the sisterhood and the resilience that comes with that.”

Shanks talked about the spirit of Dolly Parton’s music and energy carrying through her character, who Dolly wrote for herself in the original film. She noted how much fun it is to demonstrate the character’s growth and confidence throughout the show.

“I think that Dolly made the show really fun and quirky, but every character has their own time to shine, not just her own character,” Shanks said. “I think that hearing Dolly speak at the beginning and the end ties it all together and shows that it’s something she’s really proud of.”

The Thespians’ production of “9 To 5” will play at Schwab Auditorium this week on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a 1:30 p.m. matinee performance on Saturday, March 26.

Tickets for the show can be reserved online, although they must be picked up at the theater and paid for by their performance date. Student tickets cost $5, while general admission tickets are $10.

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About the Author

Mikey DeAngelis

As well as being a contributor to Onward State, Mikey DeAngelis is also the creator of the Mad About Disney YouTube channel and an aspiring filmmaker. Mikey loves Philly sports, traveling and hiking in National Parks, and watching movies. To reach Mikey, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@mikey_deangelis) or by email ([email protected]).

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