Review by Sophia Rooksberry, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
Fluorescent green lights flicker frantically across the dim stage. A ticking clock echoes throughout the theater, matching time with the women rhythmically working onstage. The eerie synchronicity between technical and performing elements sends chills throughout the audience. The magic of William Henry Harrison High School's Radium Girls has begun.
Based on true events, Radium Girls tells the story of Grace Fryer, a factory worker who spent years decorating watch faces with radium paint, a substance that's unknown side effects had not yet stopped it from sweeping the nation. Throughout the course of the play, Grace and her coworkers grow steadily more ill, until the truth about radium is revealed, and they are forced to take their employers to court. Harrison High School tackled this show's difficult script with innovation and poise, resulting in a moving production about when injustice meets courage.
Leading the cast in the role of Grace Fryer was Noelle Ley, whose handle on her role was outstanding. Despite the hardships her character was forced to undergo, Ley remained level-headed and empathetic. Her acting choices were strong and motivated, resulting in a fantastic overall performance. Opposite Ley, Robby Mumfrey played Arthur Roeder, President of the U.S. Radium Corporation, and delivered a wickedly cruel performance. His antagonism, rooted in an unwillingness to accept his own shortcomings, was infuriating. Yet, thanks to Mumfrey's dynamic performance, audience members found themselves sympathizing with him by the time the curtain closed.
Leah Marx in the role of Kathryn Schaub, one of Grace's similarly afflicted friends, was beautifully passionate. From her carefree conversations before tragedy struck to the heartbreaking monologue after her first coworker succumbed to her poisoned body, Marx's performance was consistently poignant. Another remarkable performance was that of Bella Porter as Charlie, Arthur Roeder's business partner. Her authoritative presence was utterly captivating and helped drive the conflict that resulted in such an impactful show.
Contributing heavily to the unsettling symbolism of the show was the set design. All elements of the set were not only were efficient and practical but also visually stunning. In particular, the clock that hung above the stage, and the strategic timing of its illumination, lent an additional facet to the show. Not only was the lighting design well-adapted to the show's different settings, from the darkness of the factory floor to the harsh overhead courtroom lighting, but it also added touches of symbolism to otherwise ordinary moments.
Radium Girls is a commentary on advocacy and feminism at a time when neither was the status quo, driven by dramatic irony and historical complexities. Despite the monumental precedent such a show presents, the company at Harrison High School succeeded in honoring those women and their empowering stories.
Review by Anna Grace Hull, Ursuline Academy Critic Team
The plight of the New Jersey dial painters took center stage in William Henry Harrison High School's production of Radium Girls, a drama that glows with power and justice.
Radium Girls recounts the story of Grace Fryer, one of many dial painters who suffered from extreme radium poisoning from the paint used in watch factories in the 1920s. As she and her friends fight for their day in court to avenge their anguish, Grace is forced to battle Arthur Roeder, the aggressive president of the U.S Radium Corporation, as well as his unwavering team of lawyers and witnesses.
Harrison's Radium Girls provided the audience with a wonderful retelling of this thought-provoking story. In particular, the cast showed incredible talent in the ensemble scenes, each creating his or her own distinct character while maintaining relationships with other characters.
As the show's protagonist, Noelle Ley did a beautiful job of painting Grace's character arc from an unsuspecting, innocent girl to an ailing but resolute young woman. As her oppressor, Robby Mumfrey played on Roeder's sense of power by remaining uptight and intimidating, while softening in the moments when his heart aches for the sick girls. Together, Ley and Mumfrey led the cast with solid presences and authentic storytelling.
This show would not be complete without the talent of the supporting characters. Leah Marx delivered a standout performance as Kathryn Schaub, Grace's best friend. Notably, her outrage when turned away at the health department was extremely compelling, exposing the deep hurt felt by the painters. In addition, Courtney Reckelhoff was stately yet compassionate, which perfectly suited her character of the progressive Katherine Wiley.
The technical elements succeeded in creating a marvelous environment for the show. The set, built by Ava Whitis, Lily Montavon, Estrella Soriano, and crew, established distinct locations throughout the show; the reporters even had their own radio booth. Most remarkable was the clock that loomed over the stage as a motif. The lighting crew, led by Emma Huber, selectively used a glow-in-the-dark effect on the clock to show when Roeder and his team actually recognized the pain inflicted on the girls.
Overall, Harrison prevailed in bringing the ever-important tale of the Radium Girls to life, truly raising the question of the role of new science in 20th century American consumer culture.
Review by Mattalyn Yosafat, Colerain High School Critic Team
Set in 1920's New Jersey, William Henry Harrison High School's production of Radium Girls is about young girls working with radium, thought to be a miracle cure at the time. When everyone mysteriously began getting sick, only one girl was brave enough to go up against the company that caused it.
Grace Fryer (Noelle Ley) is the female protagonist and underdog of the play. She is not afraid of fighting for the people she cares about, even if it negatively affects her. Ley brought a sense of light to an all around "dark" show. Her performance was heartwarming and made it easy to root for her. Arthur Roeder (Robby Mumfrey) is one of the more complex characters in the show. It was hard for the audience to decide whether they liked or hated the factory owner. Mumfrey gave a strong performance as Mr. Roeder and had a near perfect performance as the almost-antagonist.
Kathryn Schaub (Leah Marx) is the best friend of Grace Fryer and another factory worker who was sick due to the radium. Marx gave a superb performance as this strong-headed character. She showed the switch from stubbornness to vulnerability at the drop of a hat, which left the audience in anguish. Tom Kreider (Matthew Rudolph) is the fiancé of Grace Fryer. Rudolph gave lighthearted laughs every time he was onstage. Through his physicality and quick jokes, he added a sense of humor to an otherwise serious show.
The technical elements of this show brought the entire performance together. From the impressively accurate 1920s hairstyles to the flawless props and immaculate lighting design, William Henry Harrison's tech crews put a great deal of effort into the performance, which made the play all the more enjoyable to watch.
William Henry Harrison's production of Radium Girls was a story of love, loss, and fighting for the bigger picture. It was a beautiful telling of a great story and was an all around "glowing" performance.
Excerpts From Other Top Reviews
"William Henry Harrison High School's production of Radium Girls was an extremely smooth production, featuring solid execution of complex staging and light cues. This production featured a unique silent opening sequence, blocked by student director Chloe Schwettmann, which served as foreshadowing to the conclusion of the show, emphasizing the dramatic irony of the situation."
-Lily Canter, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"Though Radium Girls was a tragic show, the comedic moments sprinkled throughout successfully lifted spirits. Most notably, Logan Helmes was side splitting as the Lovesick Cowboy, as was Christian Mauldin as Dr. Joseph Knef. The supporting cast must be commended for their hard work as almost every actor was responsible for multiple tracks. The students did a phenomenal job distinguishing one character from another by using different mannerisms and well timed changes."
-Tierney Rasmussen, Mariemont High School Critic Team
"Grace's boyfriend, Tom Kreider, played by Matthew Rudolph, showed both joy and determinism in wanting to have a loving relationship with Grace to thoroughly embodying immense heartbreak, hopelessness, and overall pain as the love of his life was stripped away from him. Rudolph showcased undeniably wonderful chemistry with Grace and an unmatched energy and stage presence."
-Brando Donaldson, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"The sets for this show were very creative and simply yet elegantly displayed clear differences between characters and locations, such as the U.S. Radium Boardroom and the dial painting studio contrasted with Grace's house. Some set pieces were used multiple times in different contexts, but they worked flawlessly at serving their purpose and never felt out of place."
-Berkley Dixon, Ursuline Academy Critic Team
"Other standout performances arose from unexpected places, such as the humorous Christian Mauldin who was triple cast as a dentist, court judge, and Venecine salesman. Emmerson Bunner was also triple cast as a factory supervisor, a clerk, and Grace Fryer's mother. This casting style challenged many ensemble members to take on several larger than life characters in the span of just two hours."
-Brooke Yates, Ryle High School Critic Team
"Stage crew and props crew, headed by crew chiefs: Ava Whitis, Kiley Todd, and Honey Dick, were an extremely resourceful bunch. Using real food and drink can be tricky, but this crew smoothly executed the use of such things as cooked spaghetti, colored juices, and water.
Marketing/publicity managers Courtney Reckelhoff and Eve King did a great job of choosing and finalizing a show poster design, using promotional materials such as marquees and posters around the community and decorating the entrance with Radithor labeled water bottles, clocks, and glow in the dark jewelry."
-Karlie Smith, Colerain High School Critic Team
"Overall, the cast and crew of Radium Girls portrayed a stunning true story of exploitation, will, and determination."
-Grace Rudie, Ursuline Academy Critic Team