Interviews With J-DHS Winter Musical Lead Roles

Photo shows promotional poster for the musical. Photo Credits: john.purvis on Flickr. Creative Commons License.

By Contributing Writers Quinn Pfister (’27) and Helena Sofinski (’27)

Jamesville-DeWitt High School holds a musical every winter. This year’s musical is a Dolly Parton inspired story, “9 to 5” and is based off of the movie. This year, there are multiple lead roles. These roles were given to Megan Keough (Dora Lee Rhodes), Kate Saluti (Violet Newstead), Eden Shirlian-Howlett (Joe), Thomas Vandermolen (Rosalyn [Roz] Keith), and Alex Bronchetti (Judy).

These people obtained these roles by going through the audition process after signing up for an audition slot. The process begins with auditions by everyone interested in a part. There is an open audition where everyone turns in a form explaining how much experience they have within musicals, and they sing a song of their choosing. The song must be no longer than 1 minute and 30 seconds. Open auditions mean that no one is going for one specific part. The director of the musical will choose who gets what role based on how the audition goes and how the director picture the character in their mind. 

Both the musical and the movie “9 to 5” are set in the 60’s and showcases how women are constantly overlooked and undermined in the workplace. The women of the workplace fantasize about living out their dreams and fantasizing about overthrowing the company’s “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” boss.

Saluti mentions that her character (Violet Newstead) is “the boss under the boss, and she’s very self-assured and knows how to do her job and how to do it right. Saluti says, “She’s often overlooked.” She mentions that it’s common for women to be undermined and sexualized in the workplace and how she’s using her role as Violet Newstead to “speak to girls everywhere in an empowering way.” 

Vandermolen (Roz) spent “months preparing” for their audition. Vandermolen said that “the musical is my favorite part of the J-D year.” They say they relate to their character Roz, as in the musical, they are in love with the boss and they “understand what it’s like to love someone who you don’t know if they love you back or not.” Roz is kind of the “office snitch” and Vandermolen says that they like to keep to themselves. Vandermolen said “whether or not I relate to my character, that won’t stop me from doing my best to bring Roz to the stage.” 

Bronchetti plays the character Judy. She went into the audition with an open mind, but was hoping for the role of Judy. Bronchetti would describe her as a “pushover” whom is recently divorced as her husband left her. Since her husband left her, Judy has to learn what it is like to work and provide for herself. Judy finds herself having a hard time adjusting to working a 9-5 job, and becoming familiar with the work life. Judy has to find her way through this by gaining confidence and becoming a supportive person. Bronchetti states that if she had to find herself relating to Judy in any way, it would be that they are both confident and supportive people. Judy is not Bronchetti’s first lead role in a musical. She has been doing musicals since she was 5 years old, and her last big lead was as Emma Nolan in last years musical, “The Prom.”

Shirlian-Howlett will be acting as another lead role, Joe. Shirlian-Howlett had spent time preparing a song with his voice teacher to sing for the open audition. While he was auditioning, he wasn’t going for anyone specific but was very happy with the outcome that he received. Joe is described as “a very sweet guy” and is the main love interest for the character Violet. Shirlian-Howlett said he can relate to his character well and feels confident to play as Joe. He says, “They (the director) have me play a lot of those like, ‘heart-throbby’ characters in a lot of musicals I’ve done. It’s kind of what directors like to see from me.”. Given this information, Shirlian-Howlett has no doubt that he can pull off the character Joe. 

Keough is playing the character Dora Lee Rhodes. This is Keough’s first time getting a role in a high school musical as she typically tends to be part of stage crew. This year is different for her because it’s her senior year and she wanted to give it a shot, considering it will be her last time on the Jamesville-DeWitt High School stage as a student. Keough did a lot to prepare for her audition though. She worked with vocal coaches outside of school to practice singing within her vocal range. After she went to the audition, she later found out what part she got and was really happy with it. Keough describes her character as the “sweet but tough” person. Dora Lee Rhodes grew up poor, but she always persevered. Dora is a sassy, southern woman and is quick to be judged by people because she is a woman working in the industry. Keough said that if she could relate to her character in any way, it would be that people are quick to judge her, especially in high school.

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