“What are you willing to do to see your vision accomplished? What are you willing to forgive and what are you not willing to forgive?” These are the words of Michael Najar, a Palo Alto High School choir teacher and creator of “Venture,” an original musical performed by Paly students, which premiered Friday in the PAC.
“Venture” follows young entrepreneur Saira Sidana (Sofia Peterson) as she struggles to maneuver the male-dominated technology industry in modern Silicon Valley. Throughout the show, Sidana confronts gender roles in the workplace, the prioritization of success over ideals, and the challenge of maintaining both a career and a relationship.
The musical is a must-see for Silicon Valley natives, as the issues presented are relevant to society today and portrayed in an upbeat manner that resonates a message of hope for Silicon Valley’s future.
It adopts a satirical viewpoint on contemporary Silicon Valley, while still embracing the community as a unique culture in itself. Audience members native to the area can appreciate the numerous cultural references, including a spin class scene, a constant desire for the comfort of UGG boots, and the understated presence of a Peet’s Coffee cup.
Both the writing and the student performances provide each character with a sense of relatability and dimension as they face obstacles familiar to the viewer. Not only do the protagonists develop as the plot unravels, but the audience is allowed insight into the minds of the supporting characters, as well.
The characters of “Venture” are extremely well-developed; many of them have traceable character arcs, which makes the play’s resolution all the more gratifying. The numerous characters within the show provide a variety of intriguing personalities and an array of minor plot lines. Brian (Gil Weissman), Saira’s boyfriend, invokes sympathy by accurately portraying the struggles of engaging in a relationship in which work is a barrier.Jennifer (Emilia Massoudi), Saira’s right-hand woman and a working mother, provides much-needed comic relief in tense situations while also offering the occasional bit of sage wisdom.
Najar and his associates’ musical expertise is undeniable, recognizable in each song as it’s sung by talented, passionate students. Standout numbers included “El Corazon Que Desea,” “I Present To You,” “Ralph From Glendale,” and “Relax/I Can Change The World.”
The adult production staff consists of Paly staff members, including director Kathleen Woods, Paly’s own theater teacher, and outside hires such as Meghan Hakes, an education associate and master teaching artist at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Additionally, Paly choir teacher Brittney Kerby contributed to the score.
Dance teacher Alyssa Bond’s choreography is well-done, as seen in a scene involving bikes at the spin studio. The intermittent background dancing at times detracts from important events in the plot even as it adds an artistic energy to the production.
The technological innovations in the play perfectly encompass the spirit of Silicon Valley and add entertainment, flair and style. The projection-based set allows for detailed backdrops, the lighting reflects different moods, and the use of pre-recorded FaceTime footage adds an innovative touch.
While the 2 hour and 45 minute run time may seem daunting, “Venture” is a must-see for any Silicon Valley native.
Viewers should be cautioned the play contains explicit language and sexual innuendo that may not be suitable for young children.
Showtimes are 4 p.m. March 15, 7:30 p.m. March 16 and March 17, and 2:00 p.m. March 18. Ticket prices are $10 for students and $15 for adults.