Performing Arts Review – 9 to 5: The Musical

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1979, a time when we had Pet Rocks, Tab cola and Jimmy Carter as President, it was also a time when women did not have respect in the workplace. What happens when women get together and put their heads together to battle the front of getting what they deserve? “9 to 5” is the comical view of three womyn (as the character Violet says) who take matters into their own hands. Director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun takes you back in time, when apples and blackberries where something you picked in an orchard.

Violet is the Pro, the veteran of the company. Doralee is the Bombshell from down south that has more than just good looks. Then we have Judy, the New Girl, in more ways than one. What do they have in common? All of them work for Franklin Hart Jr. and have felt his many ways of harassment. Not anymore! These three women will fight the good fight and show no matter what that they are just as equal as any man, in many ways.

Calhoun has brought a show that thoroughly entertains from start to finish. Something that is hard to do sometimes when translating from screen to stage. Yet this touring production is full of talent. Starting with the story, whose book was written by one of the original screen writers, Patricia Resnick and moving on to the music and lyrics by Grammy award winning artist and star of the movie, Dolly Parton, you are in for a treat.

This is not Calhoun’s first time working with Parton as he played the quarterback in the film ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ so I can imagine there was a lot of laughs and collaboration between the two of them along with Resnick on the staging of the musical. In any event it is an exciting and whirlwind of original music and story that is very well translated to the stage. Even having Parton on screen during the show adds to her total involvement and adds a little bit of fun to the show.

Let’s take a look at the three women who really stand out in this production. Not only do these three channel the original characters from the movie, they put their own twist into the heart of each. Violet is portrayed by longtime Broadway veteran Dee Hoty. Superb in every way a strong and independent woman should be. Her vocals are inspiring during ‘One of the Boys’ and her struggle of her personal life can ring true in any time period. American Idol runner up Diana DeGarmo steps in to play Doralee. Talk about some (clears throat) tough shows to fill. Dolly must be so proud to have such a lovely voice and woman to play a part she will always cherish as her first movie role. But I must say, DAMN, she does it well. Diana must have sat and listened to Dolly sing and talk for hours, days or months for she hit the nail right on the head. As my lovely date put so well, ‘her cadence was perfect’. From the little twang and speech pattern to the style in which Dolly says certain words in the song ‘Backwoods Barbie’ show how much love and passion she puts into the part. The New Girl, Judy is played by Mamie Parris. Talk about a voice with power and grace. In her moment of self respect and being okay with being alone, Mamie lets Judy sing out in ‘Get Out and Stay Out’; very moving wouldn’t even begin to say how meaningful she performs. To say that Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Parton would be proud of these three women would be an understatement. 

Surrounding these three magnificent women is an amazing cast of characters. From the egotistical, womanizing, bigoted boss Franklin Hart Jr. played by Joseph Mahoald to his by the book and adoring secretary Roz portrayed by Kristine Zbornik, you will be entertained. One character that stands out is the office drunk, Margret, played by Jane Blass; one word on her performance, hilarious. This just shows you how diverse and gifted a cast you will see in ‘9 to 5’. Bravo!!!

To those working behind the scenes, congratulations on work well done. The lighting was brilliant. Conductor Martyn Axe and his band where first-rate, even with the random guitar pluck in the first act. The set was dazzling as it was functional in its many uses. Costuming the actors in the time frame between hippie and preppy is a tough task but very well played off on stage. By the way loved the afro.

The only thing I can truly comment about that bugged me was the mic placement of the lead actors. Having done stage productions I do understand and know how hard of a time it is to mic a show but seeing the mics in the middle of the foreheads looked a little weird. In some cases looked like a big black dot on their forehead. Just my two cents.

A congratulation to all of you working on this show as it does entertain anyone of any age and of any walk of life. Whether you work in an office or not you can connect with the characters or know those kinds of people. Having grown up during this time frame I can relate to my mom having worked in an office much like the office in the beginning of the show. Just like Violet, Doralee and Judy my mom found her strength and shined throughout her career, never letting anyone keep her down. Her will persevered much like the stars of this production. Again, congratulations!!

See ‘9 to 5’ at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts May 10-15, 2011.

Follow my adventures in entertainment in Southern California on Twitter @SCThrillsMarc.

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