BWW Reviews: Grand Rapids Civic Theatre's 9 TO 5 Will Leave You Smiling
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre opened their run of 9 to 5 on Friday night to much laughter and an enthusiastic standing ovation.
9 to 5 is the musical comedy based upon the 1980 film of the same name, with music and lyrics penned by Dolly Parton. It is Dolly herself who opens the show via video, taking the audience back to 1979 and all its glass-ceilinged, technologically-impaired glory, setting the scene for the opening number, the rollicking title song, "9 to 5".
Emily Diener, Jenny Fischer, and Samantha Gauthier play the three leading ladies of Judy, Doralee, and Violet (roles filled by Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin, respectively, in the film), who take on their boss at Consolidated Industries, Franklin Hart Jr. (Dave Duiven), a "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot."
The show begins as neglected housewife Judy fearfully takes on her first job, where she meets Violet, the consummate professional. She has no work experience and no job skills, but is taken under Violet's wing and shown the ropes on how to survive in the corporate world. Meanwhile, Doralee, the object of Mr. Hart's misguided lust, is exposed to over-the-top sexual harassment in "Here for You". All three women, though in different situations, share the same feelings of despair, but soon call upon their inner strength to survive and overcome ("I Just Might"). The next day, things get worse, as Violet is passed over for a promotion that was rightfully hers, Doralee is rejected at every turn by her coworkers, and Judy just can't seem to get a handle on her new position. In Mr. Hart's office, Violet informs Doralee that Hart has been spreading the rumor that they are having an affair, and the three women become unlikely allies after Doralee tells Hart she would change "a rooster into a hen with one shot!"
United in their loathing, the three women become friends, and their murderous fantasies are revealed, until Violet brings to life her fictional scenario by accidentally putting rat poison into Hart's coffee. He survives, but after an attempt to blackmail the women, they finally snap, kidnapping the boss and keeping him strung up in his own home. They take over the office in his absence, increasing productivity and overall happiness, and each woman comes into her own, as Doralee proves she is more than just a pretty face, Violet overcomes her self-doubt, finds love, and the promotion she deserves, and Judy makes a stunning transformation during a show-down with philandering ex-husband Dick (Shane Lynn) that seals her resolve and allows her to move on as an independent woman, with the show stopping "Get Out and Stay Out".
This show is phenomenally well-cast, and some additional highlights include "Hart to Heart" sung by Hart's love-struck personal assistant, Roz (played by a vivacious Karen Ambs), Violet and Joe's (Andrew Schneider) sweet duet, "Let Love Grow", and "Backwoods Barbie" in which Jenny Fischer gives proof to Doralee's declaration, "Don't judge me by my cover, I'm a real, good book."
While acknowledging the inherent misogyny and glass ceiling of the corporate world, 9 to 5 doesn't make a political statement, but confidently points at its ludicrousness and dares you not to laugh. With the fantastic controlled chaos of choreography, lightning-fast scene and costume changes, impressive technical effects, and an overall quality of design rarely seen in community theatre, the spectacle of the show is extraordinary, but it is the moments of tenderness, the fellowship overcoming impossible odds, and above all, the laughter, that you will take home with you, smiling ear to ear.
Book by Patricia Resnick; music and lyrics by Dolly Parton; Directed by Penelope Notter, Music Directed by Charles Hutchins, Choreography by William Schutte. Presented by Grand Rapids Civic Theatre; (616) 222-6650. Running time 112 minutes with one intermission. Playing Wed. - Fri. at 7:30pm, Sun. matinee at 2pm, through June 15th.
WITH: Karen Ambs (Roz Keith), Leanne Challa (Margaret), Nick Coulson (Josh/Ensemble), Emily Diener (Judy Bernly), Logan Dolence (Cop/Ensemble), Dave Duiven (Franklin Hart Jr.), Robbie Ellis (Ensemble), Jenny Fischer (Doralee Rhodes), Samantha Gauthier (Violet Newstead), Malia Huffman (Maria), Natalie Joaquin (New Employee/Intern), Amanda Kaley (MissyHart/Ensemble), Jacqueline Kirsch (Ensemble), Shane Lynn (Dick/Doctor), Courtney Martin (Candy Striper/Intern), Andrew Playford (Ensemble), Timmy Schmidt (Dwayne), Andrew Schneider (Joe), G.M. (Bud) Thompson (Mr. Tinsworthy), Carly Uthoff (Cathy), Edgar Walker (Bob Enright), Carson Wanty (Detective/Ensemble)