BWW Review: 9 TO 5:THE MUSICAL AT THE MET at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre
- 9 to 5: The Musical, now at Kansas City's Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, provides a nostalgic romp through office life in the late '70's. This show, with music and lyrics by the iconic Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, is based on the basic feminist revenge plot of the 1980 movie. Equipped with production numbers, ballads, comedic quips, and romance, this vintage-style musical feels as if it's built from recycled musical comedy components. It pleases in ways reminiscent of the recent TV series "The Office"; with the added punch of Parton's country pop music.
The show focuses on three women, Violet, Doralee and Judy (Leah Swank Miller, Katie Karel, and Hannah Freeman) who all work as secretaries at Consolidated Industries. Each woman has her spotlight moment and they come together in hopeful solidarity in "I Just Might". Audience favorite Roz (Valerie Bracken Dykes) belts out an obsessive love fantasy in "Heart to Hart" about everyone's contemptuous boss Mr. Hart (John Cleary). Cleary gives an egotistical edge to his sexist, lying, hypocritical bigot of a character and provides some of the funniest moments of the show.
The three leading women engage in a pot-induced night of fantasizing about ways to bump off the boss. Later at the office Violet accidentally puts rat poison in Hart's coffee. Eavesdropping Roz informs Hart and he decides to blackmail Doralee into sleeping with him so he won't go to the police. Hart's blackmail backfires and the three women tie Hart up and kidnap him and successfully take over the company in his absence. With help from Violet's love interest Joe (played by Jeff Smith who reminds this reviewer of the late actor Christopher Reeve) they realize they can blackmail Hart with proof of his embezzling from company accounts. Violet and Joe provide romantic charm in "Let Love Grow", and a final comedic twist at the end has the entire company reprising the ever-popular 9 to 5 theme.
The cast at the MET, directed by Karen Paisley, reaches for both goofily entertaining moments and tender touches with enthusiasm; however, characters don't yet seem entirely fleshed out. Some of the best comedic lines are tossed away too quickly to achieve full impact, yet the fun is not lost. There is solid musicianship throughout, and the orchestra, conducted by Loren Bridge sounds especially good. Chorus members provide flashes of sparkle with tight choreography (by Leah Swank Miller) and musical exuberance. Costumes, by Shannon Regnier, contain padded polyester true to the era. The sound settled in after the first act, but performers in this venue would benefit from stronger focus on consonant sounds to be better understood by the audience. The intimate venue at the MET uses every inch of its space with creative moving set design features and lighting that give distinction to each scene change. While the source material for 9 to 5 may not be the meat and potatoes of theater, as a light dessert it's like jell-o with whipped cream, and what's not to like about that?
"9 to 5: The Musical" performs at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre through May 21st. For tickets or information visit them online at metkc.org
Images courtesy of Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre