We recently saw the beautiful, energetic singing, dancing and acting in the musical “9 to 5” at the 5th Avenue Theatre. I really enjoyed it because of the familiar story, developed from the 1980 movie starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin.
The overture starts with the familiar thump, thump, thump, the intro to the song 9 to 5, and Dolly Parton, bigger than life, comes on via video. She says hello, comments on the production we’re going to see and then introduces the three principals: Violet, the Lily Tomlin role (Dee Hoty), Doralee in the Dolly Parton role (Diana DeGarmo) and Judy, the Jane Fonda role (Mamie Parris). Dolly’s video departs and the singing begins!
I enjoyed again one of my favorite lines, “Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour my self a cup of ambition.” We were off.
The action, the music and the dancing were kept at peak performance by director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Lisa Stevens. It was a great first act, exhibiting almost the whole story. The second act was really good, too, but I could have done without the Dolly intrusions at the beginning and ending. The story could move along quite well without that gratuitous (my opinion) homage to the composer and lyricist; it seemed to be an attempt to insert DP into all parts of the production, as a mark of her control. The Doralee part using Parton’s inflection and accent is homage enough. Although she's the flashiest character, Doralee was not the only character in the movie.
The sets by Kenneth Foy were very good, especially in the exposition of the changes wrought by the three women by the addition of color, pattern and texture in the office. The costumes were good, although I noticed that, of the three women, only Doralee wore any color. Violet’s office kimono jacket and her “one of the boys” white three-piece suit were her only clothes with any personality. Judy’s costumes were especially dull, I suppose as a reflection of her insecurity and very traditional demeanor and expectation.
Judy, a brand new employee who has no business skills, is introduced to Violet, the consummately efficient office manager. Violet recognizes a scared, recently divorced, never worked before woman and has sympathy on her. But not too much. The song “Around Here” gives Judy the layout and expectations of the Consolidated Industries office. “You gotta know what to do, you gotta do it in a hurry, gotta hustle, gotta bustle, gotta scoot, you gotta scurry.” She gets introduced to the boss Franklin Hart (Joseph Mahowald), a sexist, ageist, bigoted, blow-hard of a womanizing boss. After work, Judy expresses her fear of not being able to do the job, rallies herself to keep trying as she's joined by the other two women on the harmonious, beautiful, plaintive song “I Just Might.” This number makes the production glow. All the voices are sooooo good on the wonderful songs by Dolly Parton.
The three women bond over their cumulative disgust with their boss and fantasize about killing him, one by roping and broiling him, one by poisoning him and the third by a “dance of death.” Violet accidentally poisons Hart’s coffee the next day and confesses to the other two. As they try to work out what to do, Roz (Kristine Zbornik), Hart’s toady who’s hiding, standing on the toilet seat to overhear any confessions or rebellions by the female employees. Of course, Roz tattles to her beloved boss.
Hart and Roz plan revenge on the “girls”; Hart hides out in the dark in his office when the three sneak in to remove the evidence. He’s waiting for them, threatens and then tries to blackmail the three of them. This results in the famous scene when they take him, at gun point, to his empty home and truss him up like a Thanksgiving turkey, suspending him when they leave to go back to work.
Well, the trio take over the office with Hart gone, forging memos (Doralee signs his name better than he does) sending Roz to a month-long language immersion course in Denver. They also update the office procedures to humanize the HR rules and rehire some fired employees. These improvements bring a 20% increase in productivity, which brings the Chairman of the Board Tinsworthy (Wayne Schroder) to bring the changes to the other corporate offices. By this time Hart has worked his way out of the restraints and returns to confront the trio. Tinsworthy praises and promotes him to a position in Bolivia and Violet is promoted to the head of this division. The finale of the “9 to 5” production is ended by Dolly Parton, again appearing in video, to explain the outcome of the leads, and she wraps up the production. The cast danced again and the audience leapt to its feet in a standing ovation.
I loved the bigger than big voices singing Parton’s music and lyric. The three leads all have Broadway credits and Tony nominations (Hoty) and Tony awards, Parris in particular in one of our favorite musicals, “The Drowsy Chaperone”.
“9 to 5, the Musical” runs through April 24 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle . For information and tickets, call the box office at 206-625-1900 or go online at 5thAvenuetheatre.org.
The next 5th Avenue production is our favorite, “Guys and Dolls” running from May 12 to June 5. Don’t miss this. I don’t know anything about this production yet, but it’s a tour de force of Damon Runyon gamblers, girlfriends, Salvation Army preachers and musicians set in ‘30s New York . There is no reason to miss this production; it’s so much fun. I know all the songs and I love them.