EPHS Spring Musical 2022: Preparing for "9 to 5: The Musical"

"9 to 5" logo

MARCH 20 UPDATE: The 2022 EPHS Spring Musical is now over. Thanks to everyone who attended, and congratulations to the cast, crew, pit orchestra and directors! To learn more about what went into preparing for the show, scroll down for a video, rehearsal photos and Q&A's with the directors.


Live musical theater returns to the stage of Elmwood Park High School with the performance of the EPHS 2022 Spring Musical, “9 to 5.”

Opening night will be Friday, March 18, at 7 p.m., followed by two shows on Saturday, March 19, at 2 and 7 p.m. There will be no Sunday performance.

Tickets are $5, with free admission for students, staff and senior citizens.

The production will be the first in-person musical theater performance at EPHS since March 2020, when "Shrek" took center stage right before the State of Illinois declared a COVID lockdown for schools.

For a sneak peak of "9 to 5: The Musical," check out the promo video below.



Mr. Noah Pligge is the show's director and choreographer. Mr. Kyle Rhoades is producer and pit orchestra director. Mr. Grant McEachern is vocal director and lighting/sound designer. Mr. Christian Rosenzweig is set designer and tech director. Ms. Sue Schultz is costume designer.

For photo galleries of the cast, orchestra and crew preparing for the show, use these links:


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Michelle Soto leads a number as Doralee, the character originally played by Dolly Parton in the 1980 film on which "9 to 5: The Musical" is based. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca) 


Based on the 1980 movie of the same name and featuring music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, “9 to 5: The Musical” tells the story of three female office workers (Violet Newstead, Doralee Rhodes and Judy Bernly) who turn the tables against their autocratic boss.

In the EPHS production, the roles of Violet, Doralee and Judy are played respectively by junior Theresa Diprizio, senior Michelle Soto and junior Alanis Rivera. Senior Michael Uyeda-Ansari plays their boss, Franklin Hart, Jr.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: From left, senior Michelle Soto, junior Theresa Diprizio and junior Alanis Rivera rehearse their roles as Doralee, Violet and Judy. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


"It's a great female star-led show, and we have some amazing female talent that we wanted to feature," said Mr. Pligge, the show’s director.

"The music is killer, and I think anyone who likes Dolly Parton would fully enjoy this show. I also think the costumes/hair would appeal to the high school audience. It's a flashback with some trends that may or may not be coming back into fashion!"


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: The "9 to 5" cast has been up to the challenge of mastering Dolly Parton's music and lyrics. "The music is killer," says director Noah Pligge. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


For more about the production, scroll down this page or use these links for quick access:

All Q&A interviews were done virtually via Google Docs with District 401 web/media specialist Dave Porreca. Thank you to the directors for taking the time to be interviewed!

Congratulations to everyone involved in the production. See you on opening night!


Q&A with Noah Pligge, Director & Choreographer


For those who aren't familiar with "9 to 5," could you tell us a little bit about the story?
Without giving too much away, “9 to 5: The Musical” tells the story of three unlikely friends who take control of their office and learn there is nothing they can't do, even in a man's world.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: In a show-stopping number, senior Michael Uyeda-Ansari as boss Franklin Hart, Jr., receives his just rewards from Michelle Soto's Doralee. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


The original movie was released in 1980, and the musical debuted in 2008. What aspects of the production do you think would appeal to a high school audience today?
It’s a great female star-led show, and we have some amazing female talent that we wanted to feature. Firstly, the music is killer, and I think that anyone who likes Dolly Parton would fully enjoy this show. I also think the costumes/hair would appeal to the high school audience. It’s a flashback with some trends that may or may not be coming back into fashion!

For those who aren’t familiar with how a musical is chosen at EPHS, could you tell us about the selection process? For example, who’s involved and what qualities are you looking for in a potential show?
This year was tough due to the pandemic. I start off with an email to the production team about potential ideas and we go from there. Some get nixed while others we all agree on. “9 to 5:The Musical” we all agreed on from the beginning. When choosing a show, I look at the message of the show and if it would benefit the students educationally. Are there challenging vocals and dancing, and is it something we could accomplish? I always want to make sure there is an opportunity for all who want to participate, no matter the talent.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Cast members practice an ensemble number. More than 30 students are in the cast. Additional rehearsal photos are available here.  (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


People familiar with the original movie know about the three main characters played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Who plays those respective roles in the EPHS production?
Theresa Diprizio plays Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), Michelle Soto plays Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton), and Alanis Rivera plays Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda).

When were auditions held, and what were you looking for? To put it another way, is technical competence enough, or do you look for additional qualities when you’re casting?
Auditions were held right before holiday break in December. I was looking for any student interested in being a part of theater. After being dark for two years, I wanted to make sure to create an opportunity for any student to be involved, and after auditions I knew that I would cast everyone as long as they were committed. When looking to cast the leads, I was looking for confidence and preparedness. Any of these students could have played any of the roles, but I needed to look at that extra spark before casting.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: From left, Theresa Diprizio, Michelle Soto and Alanis Rivera play the roles originated in the 1980 film by Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


When did rehearsals begin, and how often per week do you rehearse the cast?
Rehearsals began right after holiday break in January. We started off strong with five or six days a week from 3 to 8 p.m. most days and even coming in on Saturday mornings. It was very intentional to begin that way because looking at the month of February, there were numerous conflicts with activities and concerts.

From your perspective as director, what are some of the highlights that audiences can expect to see when they attend the show?
The big highlight for me is seeing all the kids performing on that stage again and seeing how much fun they are having. Two highlights the audience can expect are from Emily Furgal and Michelle Soto. Emily plays Roz, the office witch who is in love with her boss. Emily has taken her character and run with it. Her comedic timing and little details will be enjoyable for all. Michelle plays Doralee, the Dolly Parton role. Michelle has really stepped it up with her Southern twang that really makes you believe it’s real! But the biggest highlight for me has to be her voice. She has grown so much as a vocalist, and this is a testament to all of her hard work.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Cast members rehearse a number. "The big highlight for me is seeing all the kids performing on that stage again and seeing how much fun they are having," says director Noah Pligge. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Is there anything else you’d like to comment on or mention that we haven’t covered?
The students involved in this production have put so much time and effort into this show. It is such a joy to be their director. I am so proud of who they have become and I cannot wait for them to share their talents with a live audience!


Q&A with Kyle Rhoades, Producer & Pit Orchestra Director


What are your responsibilities and title(s) as one of the directors of the spring musical?
Producer: Communication, program assembly, ticket sales, organization, facilities, anything money-related! Pit orchestra director: Rehearse with the pit orchestra and perform during the three shows.


Pit rehearsal

ABOVE: Kyle Rhoades (at keyboard) leads a rehearsal of the "9 to 5: The Musical" pit orchestra in the EPHS band room. (D401 photos by Dave Porreca)


Why was “9 to 5” chosen?
This is absolutely the right time to perform "9 to 5"! This show may be a bit more “PG-13” than "Cinderella" or "Shrek," and for some high school audiences that may be appealing enough in itself, but this is a show about empowering women, and that’s why we chose it.


Pit rehearsal

ABOVE: The trumpet section rehearses. Additional photos of the pit musicians practicing are available here. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Who’s involved in choosing which musical will be performed, and what qualities are you looking for in a potential show?
Each year’s show is selected by the entire artistic leadership staff. We consider who’s coming up in the ranks, what their strengths are, and what this show could offer as learning experiences for areas that need improvement. We look for shows that will fit our cast, crew and pit all at once, and it’s never an easy process!


Pit rehearsal

ABOVE: A variety of instruments add to the pit orchestra's sound. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


How was the pit orchestra selected?
Pit orchestra is open to any EPHS students who play an instrument that’s requested in the musical’s orchestration.

When did your rehearsals begin, and how are they going?
Rehearsals began in January, and students are putting in their best efforts to have things in line by Tech Week!


Pit rehearsal

ABOVE: The pit orchestra features a number of musicians who have accompanied previous EPHS musicals, including "Shrek" in March 2020. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


What if any special challenges does “9 to 5” pose for your musicians?
Like many musicals, these orchestrations are written for professionals. You’ll see several students playing multiple instruments to cover parts, playing in key signatures you’ll rarely see in the band room otherwise!


Pit rehearsal

ABOVE: Bass drum is in good hands in the pit orchestra! (D401 photo by Dave Porreca) 


What are some of the highlights that audiences can expect to see when they attend the show, whether from the orchestra or from other aspects of the production?
I’ll let you know after Tech Week! :-)


Pit rehearsal

ABOVE: The pit orchestra has been rehearsing since winter break ended in early January. More than 20 student musicians are in the group. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Is there anything else you’d like to comment on or mention that we haven’t covered?
This is our first musical production at EPHS since we shut down after our opening night of "Shrek" on March 13, 2020. As with any other sport, club or activity, our natural progression of leadership coming up through the ranks was completely disrupted by everything that’s happened over the past two years. I’m proud of all our students in this production, particularly the seniors who have stepped up their game to fill the musical void!


Q&A with Grant McEachern, Vocal Director & Lighting/Sound Designer


What are your title(s) and responsibilities as one of the directors of the spring musical? 
I am the vocal director and one of the lighting and sound designers. I am in charge of teaching the harmonies and rhythms of the music to the cast, working with the soloists, making sure the lights work and are hung and focused effectively, teaching light programming, and making sure the sound needs are taken care of.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: It's not just upperclassmen who take on responsibility in an EPHS theater production. Freshman Olivia Shipinski (right) is one of the show's two dance captains along with senior Jade Guzman. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca) 


Why was "9 to 5" chosen as this year's spring musical?
9 to 5 was chosen because it deals with many important issues like sexism and harassment in the workplace, broken relationships, changing unfair systems, dealing with rumors, and friendship. Part of what helped us land on this is that it is focused on three strong female leads, and we knew we had a number of great young actors who could succeed in those roles. This show is a lot of fun! While there are some pretty serious moments, "9 to 5" finds a way to deal with them with levity and creativity.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Theresa Diprizio as Violet, the role played by Lily Tomlin in the original film, with Emily Furgal, Zoe Rice and Ellie Johnson in the background. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Could you tell us about the show selection process? For example, who’s involved and what qualities are you looking for in a potential show?
For this show, Noah, Kyle, Sue and I talked through a number of show options discussing how well they would work for our areas of focus. I spoke to how well our vocalists could handle the ranges, Kyle talked about the complexity of the pit orchestrations, Sue considered what costuming materials we could reuse or create effectively, and Noah had the final say in whether we could pull it off and if it was something of value to the students and community. After that we presented the decision to the school administration and gave them a preview of some of the topics covered as well as a few of the more PG-13 moments along with a script. They reviewed it and then gave us the OK to go ahead with "9 to 5"!


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: From left, seniors Delilah Quintanar and Jade Guzman (front) lead a group number. Behind them are, from left, seniors Victor Sandoval and Magnus Shipinski, along with junior Theresa Diprizio. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


When were auditions held, and what were you looking for, especially for the main roles? To put it another way, is technical competence enough, or do you look for additional qualities when you’re casting a role?
Auditions were held in December. We had two rounds of auditions. One was an open call where students were asked to prepare a short song selection, learn a dance and read some lines of dialogue. The second was a callback where we heard more extensive vocal lines, paired up combinations of actors and saw how well they acted and sang together until we found the best combination. Technical skill is obviously a must but musicals are hard because every character needs to be able to sing well, act effectively and dance expressively. You can’t just be good at one or two components. Additionally we look at chemistry and vocal tone quality to determine who can play opposite of each other in believable and effective ways.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Cast members practice another group number, this one including (from left) seniors Delilah Quintanar, Lucianna Afryl and Jess Didani. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca) 


When did rehearsals begin, and how are they going?
Rehearsals have been going strong since we came back from winter break, and I think we’re in a good place to have a great show!


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Seniors George Gauthier as Dwayne and Michelle Soto as Doralee make quite the couple! More cast photos are available here. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


From your perspective as vocal director, what are some of the highlights that audiences can expect to see when they attend the show?
There are a number of really beautiful vocal moments in this show. My favorite song is one that often gets overlooked: “I Just Might.” It is full of rich harmonies and striving solo lines. Other great moments are in “Here For You” sung by the villain boss Franklin Hart (Michael Uyeda-Ansari), the trio of songs where the lead women fantasize about “getting rid of” their boss, and Judy’s (Lani Rivera) solo “Get Out and Stay Out.”


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: Senior Magnus Shipinski as Joe and junior Theresa Diprizio as Violet make sure to end their number on a high note! (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Is there anything else you’d like to comment on or mention that we haven’t covered?
Coming back and mounting a musical after the doors were closed on "Shrek" in 2020 has been an emotional and all-hands-on-deck sort of experience for the students and directors alike. It’s been thrilling to watch everything come together, and I’m excited to see where this energy takes us in the years to come!


Q&A with Christian Rosenzweig, Tech Director & Set Designer


What are your responsibilities and title(s) as one of the directors of the spring musical? 
As tech director I manage the construction of the set and the student crew that puts it together. This is a huge undertaking that requires many unnoticed hours from dozens of students. The crew is much bigger than the handful of students who actually move the set during the performance.


Crew at work

ABOVE: Crew members have been working since the end of winter break to prepare the "9 to 5: The Musical" set for opening night. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca) 


I try my best to stay out of the design and construction process as often as I can so that the final product is really owned by the students. I consider my role to be a facilitator. I manage the big picture, what should be done and when, acquire needed resources, offer my advice when it comes to solving construction problems, and communicate with the other directors to keep the production in sync. If I can get the students to the point of design and construction independence, I will not personally cut any lumber, or paint any buildings. While this is the goal it doesn’t always happen!

I also oversee the crew students who work on the lights and sound, but they often end up working more closely with the director Noah Pligge in order to execute his vision.

The musical is based on a film that came out more than 40 years ago. What aspects of the production do you think will appeal to a high school audience today?
I think our students will appreciate getting a satirical view of what life is like in the workforce. It is something we prepare them for, but they seldom get to see the day-to-day aspects of it — the “9 to 5” if you will.


Crew at work

ABOVE: Tech director Christian Rosenzweig (left) talks with one of the stage crew members during a recent work session. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


How are stage crew members selected, and what are the main responsibilities of the crew?
The stage crew is typically not selected but instead is a collection of interested students. At the start of a production anywhere from 20 to 50 students will express interest and attend our pre-production meeting. All of them are more than welcome. For this reason the stage crew typically starts quite large at the beginning of a production and is pared down over the first few weeks. We usually end up about 25 students strong. This production has 28 amazing students working on the stage crew. That being said, students from the cast and pit stop by all the time to hang out and help out.

At the end of the production, as we approach the week of the opening night, Tech Week, we begin to allocate some of the roles required for the performance. These roles are the stage manager, assistant stage manager, lights, spotlight, sound, and of course, the run crew. The stage managers keep order backstage and ensure everyone else hits their cues during the production. The light workers manage the house lights and the lighting effects/changes during the show. The spotlight team makes sure the spotlight is at the right place at the right time. The sound board workers manage the microphones and any audio effects that are needed for the show. The run crew handles all of the set changes, and any other physical effects (props, smoke, glitter, explosions, etc) that are needed during the show. All of this is a coordinated effect from the director and the stage managers.


Crew at work

ABOVE: Crew members have been working Tuesdays after school. But with the arrival of Tech Week, their schedules will stretch until 10 each night! (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


When did your work sessions begin, and how are they going?
Since the start of the semester we have met every Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. During Tech Week, we will be working the moment school ends until up to 10 every night. They are going well. We are lucky to have a handful of very experienced juniors and seniors whom I have worked with for years who are able to manage everyone's time well. At this point we are on track to complete the set prior to Tech Week (rare in my experience!) and only need to make a few cosmetic and function tweaks during Tech Week itself.


Crew at work

ABOVE: From left, senior Kevin Ramirez-Gonzalez, junior Jacob Laufer and freshman Toni Nuñez work the sound board. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Does “9 to 5” pose any special challenges for your crew?
Surprisingly not really. This production doesn’t require any particular complex set pieces. We have a tremendous amount of talent and experience amongst the crew as many of them have been with us since their freshman year. For this production it feels like we are a well-oiled machine. It is just a matter of organizing the labor and making sure that the odd construction projects get a bit extra attention. I am excited to see how our two-piece bathroom set literally comes together. This is a less-than-miraculous set piece that required a ton of work to get right.


Crew at work

ABOVE: No detail is too small for crew members as they put on the finishing touches. Additional photos of a recent work session are available here. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)  


What are some of the highlights that audiences can expect to see when they attend the show, whether from the stage design or from other aspects of the production?
I think the set for this production is really just a backdrop for the music itself. There aren't many particularly flashy pieces (though the ancient xerox machine that “throws up” paper everywhere should be fun).

Is there anything else you’d like to comment on or mention that we haven’t covered?
I appreciate your last question as there are so many students involved in crew who don’t end up on run crew or lights or sound who don’t get seen, but do a ton of work. They are the reason this production can even happen in the first place.


9 to 5 rehearsal

ABOVE: We hope to see you as EPHS welcomes back in-person musical theater! Thanks to everyone who made this year's spring musical possible! (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)


"9 to 5: The Musical" | Cast


  • Violet Newstead: Theresa Diprizio
  • Doralee Rhodes: Michelle Soto
  • Judy Bernly: Alanis Rivera
  • Franklin Hart, Jr.: Michael Uyeda-Ansari
  • Roz Keith: Emily Furgał
  • Joe: Magnus Shipinski
  • Dwayne: George Gauthier
  • Josh: Dounia Timejardine-Zomeño
  • Missy: Da’Nyla Walker
  • Maria: Jade Guzman
  • Dick: Evan Bylina
  • Kathy: Lucianna Afryl
  • Margaret: Jess Didani
  • Bob Enright: Michael Rominski
  • Security Guard: Jack Craig
  • Tinsworthy: Evan Bylina
  • Detective: Victor Sandoval
  • Cop: Roy Zuniga
  • Doctor: Emilio Barajas
  • Orderly: Ellie Johnson
  • Candy Striper: Isabella Wernsing
  • New Employee: Ellie Johnson
  • Opening Number Soloists: Jess Didani, Emily Furgał, Jade Guzman, Delilah Quintanar
  • Ensemble: Lucianna Afryl, Emilio Barajas, Bella Butler, Evan Bylina, Jack Craig, Jess Didani, Emily Furgał, George Gauthier, Jade Guzman, Enrique Hernandez, Mark Javier, Ellie Johnson, Angelina Melling, Delilah Quintanar, Zoe Rice, Michael Rominski, Victor Sandoval, Magnus Shipinski, Olivia Shipinski, Dounia Timejardine-Zomeño, Michael Uyeda-Ansari, Da’Nyla Walker, Isabella Wernsing, Divina Zamudio, Roy Zuniga
  • Assistant Producer: Magnus Shipinski
  • Assistant Director: Jess Didani
  • Dance Captains: Jade Guzman, Olivia Shipinski

"9 to 5: The Musical" | Crew


  • Stage Manager: Joey Goff
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Lizbeth Serrano
  • Sound: Jacob Laufer, Kevin Ramirez-Gonzalez, Toni Nuñez
  • Lights: Olivia Dombeck, Caty Vega
  • Spotlight: Joaquin Aguilar, Francisco Aguilar, Lyla Esparza
  • Run Crew: Sananda Shyamkumar, Jestin Nieto-Brown, Jacob Peralta, Danielle Mihalo, Kristina Gazivoda, Kathleen Castillo, Robert Konrath, Preston Morris, Xiomara Nieto, Jamie Boch
  • Stage Crew: Cisco Aguilar, Joaquin Aguilar, Dan Barajas, Emilio Barajas, Jamie Boch, Bella Butler, Mya Calderon, Kathleen Castillo, Marsh Covarrubias, Ace Cruz, Uriel Delgado, Olivia Dombek, Lyla Esparza, Kristina Gazivoda, Joevan Guerrero, Mark Javier, Robert Konrath, Jacob Laufer, Danielle Mihalo, Izabella Molina, Lundin Morris, Alex Musiał, Kamil Musiał, Xiomara Nieto, Jestin Nieto-Brown, Toni Rosario-Nuñez, Jacob Peralta, Kevin Ramirez-Gonzalez, Sananda Shyamkumar, Caty Vega, Joe Viola
  • Projections: Lety Vega, Izabella Molina

"9 to 5: The Musical" | Pit Orchestra


Sam Castellano, Ajani Dean-DeJesus, Uriel Delgado, Nathan Gillett, Daniel Guerra, Ava Hoveke, Carnell Isom, Alessandra Lopez, Suzy Lundin, Adam Morales, Alex Morales, Alex Musiał, Kamil Musiał, George Perez, Samuel Perez, Diego Reyes, Jaya Rivera, Sophia Rodriguez, Angela Roxas, Natalia Solis, Ervin Vasquez, Joe Viola


Pit rehearsal


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