BWW Reviews: 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL Will Have You Dancing In Your Seat
Last weekend I was able to attend the opening of 9 to 5: The Musical at The Cumberland County Playhouse. Based on the 1980 film starring Dolly Parton, the musical made its way to The Great White Way in 2009, and had its national tour debut in Nashville. The Cumberland County Playhouse production of 9 to 5: The Musical brings hilarity and joy to the stage and leaves you dancing along in your seat. But don't worry about bothering your seat neighbor; chances are good they are seat-dancing right along with you.
The show grabs the audience right out of the gate with the familiar title number, "9 to 5," in the first scene and introduces us to the main characters in a creative way. I won't spoil the surprise in case you choose to see the show, but I will say there is a familiar face that helps with those introductions. "9 to 5" is followed up with my favorite: a good office scene that involves music ("Around Here") and some awesome choreography that has office chairs worked in. "Around Here" had my favorite choreography of the entire show just for that reason.
Set mostly in the office of Consolidated Companies, 9 to 5: The Musical focuses on a trio of women who take on "the man" both figuratively and literally in their office jobs. Weslie Webster plays widow Violet Newstead. Violet works hard to climb the office ladder and be a proper single mother to her teenage son. Anna Baker's Judy Bernly is a slightly awkward woman who is entering the workforce for the first time after her husband has left her for a younger woman. Rounding out the trio is administrative assistant Doralee Rhodes, played by Lelia Nelson (who also doubled as choreographer for the production). Doralee simply wants to be seen for more than her....outward appearance.
The three women wind up learning about each other, and teaming up against Consolidated CEO, Franklin Hart, Jr. played by Britt Hancock (who co-directed the production with Bryce McDonald). Hancock makes Franklin Hart, Jr. every bit the despicable and slimy character that he is supposed to be and winds up being the character you love to hate and helps you realize that not everyone learns their lesson, as much as we might wish they would.
During on particularly hilarious scene our trio of heroines have some vivid fantasies of how they would like to bring justice to their slimy boss. Each woman brings their own form of justice in their mind and takes the audience along for a good laugh. One of the most memorable lines in the show comes during these fantasies and refers to Mr. Hart as a "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot." And that he is. Anyone who has ever had a less than desirable boss will admit to having some very similar fantasies of bringing justice to their boss justice, and will get a kick out of seeing our heroines and their own distinctive methods.
The next day, after an accidental murder attempt, Violet, Judy and Doralee wind up holding Mr. Hart hostage in his own home and tricking everyone in the office, including Mr. Hart's adoring sidekick Roz, hilariously played by Lauren Marshall. "Shine Like the Sun" is an encouraging number that shows the ladies taking over the company and trying to make the work place, and their lives, better and is a wonderful way to close out Act 1.
There are some additional bright spots in the cast including office lush Margaret played by Carol Irvin. Irvin nearly steals the scene every time she speaks. She's the one you love to root for, and maybe even take out for a drink (or take to an AA meeting). Also notable is Joe, the much younger love interest of Violet, played by John Dobbratz. A sweet May-December romance brings in the love story that an audience craves and Dobbratz makes Joe the kind of guy that you want to see win. "Let Love Grow" becomes the love song of the evening when Joe begins to convince Violet that he's worth taking a chance on.
"One of the Boys" is Weslie Webster's shining moment as Violet. Violet's desire to be taken seriously in her job and her joy when she realizes that she is becoming "one of the boys" is exhilarating to watch. Perhaps the most touching moment of the night was near the end of the show when Judy's husband comes back to try to reclaim his place in her life. The audience has watched Baker's Judy develop from a scared, unsure woman to a woman who knows who she is and is sure of her ability to take care of herself. Judy tells her husband Dick (appropriately name) in "Get Out and Stay Out."