No matter how shy you might have been at the beginning of Robinson Secondary School's production of "Gold in the Hills, or the Dead Sister's Secret," by the end, you found yourself hooting, hissing and stomping.

Robinson's rendition of the 1930 J. Frank Davis melodrama took the audience back to the 1890s, a time when good always triumphed over evil and true love conquered all.

Sophia Miller played the naive yet strong-willed Nell Stanley with the grace necessary to channel the wide-eyed small-town girl in the big city, seeking her lost sister and in love with her longtime neighbor. Patrick Sanders, as the always honest and infinitely good John Dalton, nicely found the sincerity necessary to pull off such exaggerated virtue.

Stealing the show completely was Dan Borrelli as the evil, dark-haired, cane-toting, sneering and sniveling Richard Murgatroyd. Borrelli was an exceptional archetypal creep, in the tradition of the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" character Snidely Whiplash, and earned a stream of hisses from the audience whenever he came onstage.

The ensemble work in the show was nothing short of extraordinary, best demonstrated in a bar scene in New York.

Technically, the production was seamless. Excellent use was made of lighting to help tell the story, draw the audience's focus where it needed to be and convey tone. White footlights on honest John and red light illuminating Murgatroyd's face dramatically separated the hero from the antagonist. Cues were on point, and costuming and makeup were precise.

Wonderful energy and preparation met in Robinson's theater. Spirit and commitment in all facets of the production made "Gold in the Hills" a lucky strike.

Rachel Douglas

Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Love, spite, heartbreak and deception: All were key ingredients in Robinson Secondary School's successful melodrama, "Gold in the Hills, or the Dead Sister's Secret."

J. Frank Davis's 1930 story of a Western family and friends, "Gold in the Hills" recounts the tale of young Nell Stanley and her quest for love and happiness in the 1890s. Her true love, the honest John Dalton, is framed for murder by Nell's former lover Richard Murgatroyd, the slimy villain of the show.

Nell runs away from home for a few months, spends a memorable evening in a rowdy bar and eventually returns to uncover a plot by Murgatroyd to steal her family's home. Unfortunately for Murgatroyd, the day is saved by an undercover detective.

The cast of the Robinson production was simply outstanding. Sophia Miller portrayed Nell with striking charm, and Amanda Grozbean played Nell's sister, Barbara, with equal sweetness and grace. Justo Rivera, as Big Mike the bartender, and Carol Olsen, as Old Kate, had the audience in tears laughing at their antics.

Dan Borrelli perfected his evil character Murgatroyd devilishly. Patrick Sanders, as John, stood out with his character's enjoyably over-the-top candor.

The dancing barmaids, particularly Samantha Reho, showed incredible moves.

The only noticeable flaw in the entire production was the tendency of the actors to continue speaking their lines without providing sufficient time for the audience's reaction to quiet down; thus, some of the plot was lost.

The technical aspects of the show were superior. Lighting, headed by Michelle Durr, offered insight to the plot by effectively illuminating a specific character when he or she was speaking thoughts aloud. Footlights were used, in the tradition of a melodrama. Props and effects, led by Tim Cooke, included a breaking window, falling snow and a gunshot. The costumes were painstakingly correct for the period. Supervised by Cate Flanagan, the student-run crew created lovely attire.

All the spite, heartbreak and deception aside, there certainly was gold in Robinson's "Hills."

Jenna Miller

Lee High School

Dan Borrelli plays the caped villain Richard Murgatroyd, Sophia Miller, center, plays Nell Stanley and Justo Rivera, right, plays Big Mike in the melodrama "Gold in the Hills, or the Dead Sister's Secret" at Robinson Secondary School.