9 to 5: The Musical
If you were to ask me to describe "9 to 5: The Musical" in two words, I would simply reply, "Dolly Parton!" That’s all you really need to know. The show is filled with 16 of her catchy songs, her "Backwoods Barbie" comedy routine and that trademark big smile and feel-good vibe.
Under the energetic direction of Steven J. Heron, the Emma Parrish Theater/Titusville Playhouse has put together a wonderfully entertaining interpretation of "9 to 5: The Musical." Heron told Edge that it was a lot of fun bringing the movie-based script to the stage.
"There are so many one-liners and moments that you know and remember from years ago and yet they all come rushing back when you see and hear them again. Also another great thing is the feeling of the era. It is ’Mad Men’-esque and really a different time than now," Heron said.
"9 to 5: The Musical" takes us back to a time when women were fighting for equal rights and respect in the workplace. The play and the movie it was based on tackle some very serious subjects. Fortunately, it is done with a light touch and a lot of comedy relief.
The story follows the workplace challenges of three women who work for what used to be called a "male chauvinist pig." Their egotistical boss uses and abuses them all on a daily basis.
The show opens with a stage full of women getting ready to head off to their office jobs. They sing Dolly Parton’s tune "9 to 5" to explain their frustration. "They let you dream just to watch ’em shatter. You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder. But you got dreams he’ll never take away!"
Act 1 quickly focuses on the horrible treatment three very different women receive from the boss they all work for; Violet is a widow and a single mother. Judy is starting over after her husband left her for a younger woman. Doralee is a country girl with an enormous set of breasts who is terribly misunderstood by her coworkers who think she likes the sexual harassment she receives from the boss.
The three women work for the most disgusting boss imaginable: Franklin Hart. Mr. Hart takes the credit for any work the women do and he views them, not as his valuable office staff, but as his personal harem. Sexual harassment is Hart’s specialty.
Shelle Waller portrays Violet with just the right blend of increasing frustration. She could have easily crossed the line to make her character an annoying martyr but she skillfully walks the tightrope where we understand her frustration but appreciate her ability to see a funny side in even the darkest of circumstances. Waller is also responsible for some wonderfully funny scenes.
Melinda Lebo portrays the Dolly Parton character named Doralee. With the Partonesque big, blonde wig, country-girl accent and triple D cups, Lebo channeled Parton perfectly and also provided the best song vocals of the show.
Mindy Ward’s interpretation of Judy, the mousey housewife with suppressed anger, was an audience favorite. The audience roared in laughter when she innocently confused the term S & M with M & M’s.
Having seen the movie version, I was not sure how the local audience would handle the scene where the three abused workers smoke marijuana and cannot stop laughing. My worries were not necessary. Waller, Lebo and Ward’s antics had the audience laughing hysterically within moments.
Heron enjoyed the marijuana scene too, telling EDGE, "I have to say the scene with the three leads when they get stoned was probably the most fun I have had directing in about eight years. It was a hoot!"
Steven Jones portrays Franklin Hart. He does an excellent job of making himself unlikable. He also has some fine comedic moments such as when he tries to look up Doralee’s dress and then grabs her "triple D’s" and motorboats them.
The ladies concoct a plan. They kidnap their evil boss, tie him up and hoist him to the ceiling using a garage door opener. They return to the office and forge documents in his name to make their workplace a model of progressive employee relations. Under their direction, the company’s production soars. They also discover that Hart has been embezzling from the company.
Before they can gather the evidence of Mr. Hart’s crimes, Hart escapes and threatens to have the three women arrested. Just in the nick of time, Hart’s boss appears. Mr. Tinsworthy pays a surprise visit to congratulate the staff on the tremendous production increases. In the end, he promotes Violet to Hart’s position and sends Hart to the Bolivian office.
"9 to 5: The Musical" is a feel-good show that skillfully handles what were some very controversial subjects in its era. The show also underscores the necessity for basic civil rights for all people; a challenge that is still being faced by many even today.