9 to 5: The Musical opened to a packed house last weekend at Civic Theater. The expectant crowd murmured excitedly as the lights dimmed and the heavy red curtain rose. Dolly Parton, the star of the 1980s movie, 9 to 5, made a brief introduction via television monitors. She reminded us of how offices operated thirty years ago before the days of email, voice mail and gender equality. Then the stage came to life with an ensemble performance of “9 to 5”. The cast, clad in business suits, danced frantically, giving the audience a bird’s eye view of a scurrying office worker’s life.
For those who have seen the movie, the musical follows the story line closely. But the addition of song and dance amplifies each character. The audience cheered the three heroines as they faced and conquered their challenges. Through each scene, they turned serious moments into comedy.
Judy Bernly (Emily Diener), a recently separated housewife, is entering the workplace for the first time. Her inexperience with complex office equipment, such as a typewriter, is part of her charm. Luckily she persuades her boss, Violet Newstead (Samantha Gauthier) to keep her on despite her lack of ability. Judy’s strength to go on as a single, working woman grows in every scene.
Violet Newstead is struggling to climb the corporate ladder in her high heels. Her forward thinking ideas like daycare in the workplace and job sharing were overlooked by the ‘boys club’ office mentality. But Violet keeps climbing, eventually reaching the top.
The office rumor mill accuses Doralee Rhodes (Jenny Fischer), a faithfully married, affectionate southern belle of having a fling with her boss, Mr. Hart (Dave Duiven). She is shunned by her coworkers and often forced to eat lunch alone because of her reputation. When she finds out that Mr. Hart started the rumor she threatens to change him from a “rooster to a hen”.
Judy, Violet and Doralee form an unlikely bond, uniting them against their chauvinistic boss, Mr. Hart. After an evening of Maui Wowie and whipped crème the three friends fantasize about how they would end Mr. Hart’s office reign. Violet’s vision of poisoning him turns into reality and Hart ends up harnessed to a garage door opener in his own bedroom. Dave Duiven owns the character of Mr. Hart, turning flips as the three ladies sing, “Shine Like the Sun”.
9 to 5: The Musical introduces the audience to a new batch of Dolly Parton songs, sung with passion and precision by the amazing Civic actors. Judy sings of picking up the pieces in “I Just Might”. Mr. Hart, always on the make, sings “Here for You” to Doralee, using pillows as props to express his feelings for her. Doralee sings about feeling judged in “Backwoods Barbie”. Hart’s assistant, Roz Keith (Karen Ambs) expresses her love for him when she sings “Heart to Hart” to his photo. Violet sings of her daydreams, while wearing a sequined, striped suit, in “Violet and Boys”. The ensemble, “Change It” demonstrated great harmonizing while the cast danced on and around their desks.
See 9 to 5: The Musical at the Civic Theater, May 30 – June 15. Show times are Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2:00 PM.