BWW Reviews: Treat Yourself to a Workday Extension With 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL
9 to 5: The Musical is a quirky tale of revenge secured through feminist strength with a superb, toe-tapping score by Dolly Parton. After seeing 9 to 5 for myself, I do not understand why the show only lasted only a little more than four months on Broadway. Sure, it was never going to be a Broadway legend, but it has a fresh and original aura that I found to be more fulfilling than expected. If you're on the fence about reserving tickets for this production I encourage you to give it a try and lose yourself for a few hours in Dolly Parton's world.
9 to 5 is the musical version of the 1980's movie of the same name, which gave Dolly Parton her first on-screen role. Set in 1979 when women were starting to navigate their way through the workplace "boy's club," 9 to 5 follows three secretaries, Judy, Violet and Doralee, who dream of revenge against their chauvinistic boss, Franklin Hart. When an accidental mix-up between rat poisoning and coffee sweetener causes their dreams to unfold in real-life, the girls scheme to keep Hart hostage and take over the office. The workplace becomes more efficient and enjoyable under their management as they learn they can get by without a man.
Mamie Parris (Broadway revival of Ragtime, The Drowsy Chaperone) is absolutely sensational in the role of Judy Bernly, the newest employee at Consolidated Industries who is appalled by Hart's unfair treatment of his female employees. Her soft, beautiful tone delightfully fills the Hobby Center and I could have listened to her sing all night. Her solo, the stunning song "Get Out and Stay Out" late in the second act, is the musical pinnacle of the show delivered with a phenomenal balance of power and emotion.
"American Idol" runner-up Diana DeGarmo successfully tackles the enormous challenge of filling Dolly Parton's shoes (and big hair) in the role of Doralee Rhodes, whose physical assets attract the attention of the males in the office leading Hart to claim they're having an affair. From television we all know DeGarmo can sing but she has some serious acting talent as well. During DeGarmo's first lines in the opening number I did a double take in disbelief the nasally, southern accent was coming from her - I could have sworn it was Dolly Parton herself. The phenomenal accent and country-style vocals never slip throughout the entire performance and after her lament "Backwoods Barbie" early in the first act I was able to get over the surprise and enjoy DeGarmo's extraordinary performance. DeGarmo is also a veteran of Broadway having appeared in Hair and Hairspray.
Dee Hoty (three-time Tony nominee for her starring roles in Footloose, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and The Will Rogers Follies) rounds out the trio of leading ladies as Violet Newstead. Having been passed over for a promotion again in favor of a less-qualified male, Violet serves as the mastermind and ringleader behind the girl's antics.
Kristine Zbornik (A Catered Affair) makes the most of the smaller role of Roz Keith, Hart's frumpy executive secretary who is secretly infatuated with him. Zbornik delivers a wildly comedic rendition of "Heart to Hart" where she professes her love for her boss in a charming portrayal of an elderly woman with a child-like crush.
The set of 9 to 5 is an ingenious manipulation of rectangular prisms to form the backdrop of a vast array of settings. For a show set in 1979, the modular set often has a modern feel but the unexpected combination works well. The hanging florescent lights are also a nice touch that will remind everyone of their own office spaces. I also loved the organized chaos of the office chorography with papers waiving in the air on beat and complex wrapping of telephone cords.
With Dolly Parton as the composer and lyricist, I was pleasantly surprised there were not as many "country-styled" songs as I was expecting. The score is well thought out and upbeat keeping the show moving. The title song "9 to 5" is especially catchy which is followed by another fantastic number "Around Here" featuring clever rhythmic punctuation with staplers and typewriters.
My only complaint with the show is the character of Margret, the office lush. Many of the comedic attempts with this character feel as if they're trying too hard for laughs and I often found the character to be more of a distraction than a positive addition.
Houston's Theatre Under the Stars is one of the producers for this first national tour of 9 to 5 which plays at the Hobby Center through November 21. Tickets (starting at $24) are available on-line at www.TUTS.com, by phone at 713-558-TUTS (8887), outside the Houston area at 888-558-3882, or in person at the TUTS Box Office (800 Bagby at Walker, Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) An audio described performance is available Sunday, November 21 at 2 p.m. and open captioning Sunday, November 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus 2010