SSU junior shines on stage in 9 to 5, The Musical

Staff report

PORTSMOUTH — After a long break without live theatre throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Shawnee State University junior Savannah Nell was excited to get back on stage. Performing in the SSU Musical Theatre Department’s production of “9 to 5, The Musical”, she played the lead role of Doralee Rhodes.

“I never expected to get cast as Doralee,” she said. “Going into rehearsals, I was almost in shock for the first week. No matter the pressure, though, it was exhilarating to play a character so similar yet so different to me in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.”

In the show, Nell’s character is modeled after Dolly Parton and the popular “9 to 5” movie.

“There was quite a lot of pressure throughout the rehearsal process hearing about how everyone is going to be expecting Dolly Parton from me,” she said “I had never even seen ‘9 to 5’ prior to auditioning for the show. I then watched the movie a million times and did my darnedest to do Dolly justice!”

Nell was originally drawn to SSU after recognizing the talent in the nationally ranked game programs. However, after arriving on campus, she quickly found her heart belonged on stage.

“I noticed they were doing auditions for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, which is one of my favorite shows,” she said. “I signed up to audition, did the audition, and was cast in a small role. The program director John Huston spent the entire rehearsal process trying to get me to join Musical Theatre.”

In her time in the Musical Theatre program, Nell has been involved in four shows including “9 to 5 the Musical”, “Camelot”, “Cowgirls the Musical”, and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Being part of the cast and crew for all of these shows, she favors her time in “Cowgirls the Musical” the most.

“It was my first bigger role in the program and I just had the time of my life playing a Classical singer from the 90s who liked girls and astrology,” she said. “I always said if there was one show that I’d perform eight times a week – like they do on Broadway – it’d be Cowgirls.”

SSU’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre offers students creative opportunities as well as a grounding in liberal arts study. The program is designed to develop the professional skills required of musical theatre artists while also providing a comprehensive academic foundation.

Outside of the academic program, all SSU students are invited to audition and be involved in the department’s shows. Their next show will be “Disaster! A 70’s Disaster Movie…Musical.” Auditions for this show will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 8 beginning at 1:00 p.m. in the Howland Recital Hall in the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the Shawnee State University Musical Theatre program or their upcoming auditions, contact Program Director John Huston at [email protected] or visit

Staff report