BWW Review: A Bad Day at the Office

9 to 5: The Musical

Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton, Book by Patricia Resnick, Directed and Choreographed by Richard Stafford, Musical Direction by Mark Hartman; Scenic Design, Philip Witcomb; Costume Design, Paula Peasley-Ninestein; Lighting Design, Philip Watson; Sound Design, Jessica Paz; Wig and Hair Design, Gerard Kelly; Associate Director/Choreographer Jonathan Stahl; Production Stage Manager, Natalie A. Lynch; Associate Producer, Beth Vasta

CAST: Dee Hoty, Holly Davis, Shayla Osborn, George Dvorsky, Kathy St. George, Amy Bodnar, Patrick Boyd, Jermiah Ginn, Derek Hanson, Kevin B. McGlynn, Natalie Newman, Rommel Pierre O’Choa, Sarah M. O’Connor, Peter Romagna, Shannon Lea Smith, Jonathan Stahl, Merrill West, Toni Elizabeth White

Performances through October 7 at North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA; Box Office 978-232-7200 or

Feeling nostalgic for the 1980s? Wishing you could revisit the colorful polyester fashions of those days before cell phones and laptops replaced touch tone desk models and typewriters, when secretaries were called girls, and CEOs were all men? In 2012, the blatant sexism in 9 to 5: The Musical may seem quaint, if not altogether extinct, but the theme of women fighting for respect and to get credit for their contributions to the workplace is, unfortunately still timely. The outrageous scheme concocted by Violet Newstead, Judy Bernly, and Doralee Rhodes to exact revenge on their boss Franklin Hart, Jr., taps into the deep, dark fantasies of office workers everywhere who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Like the 1980 film of the same name on which it is based, 9 to 5: The Musical is built on the foundation of the Dolly Parton title song which opens the show. Director/choreographer Richard Stafford pulls out all the stops with the engaging young ensemble frenetically circling the stage as they awaken to the alarm clock, grab coffee, and rush off to work. Five minutes into the show, the best song in Parton’s arsenal has been spent and its echoes in subsequent tunes cannot match its mettle. Doralee has a decent character song (“Backwoods Barbie”) that Shayla Osborn sings with genuine emotion and local favorite Kathy St. George as Hart’s devoted assistant/spy Roz Keith bumps and grinds her way into the spotlight (“Heart to Hart”) to great comic effect, but more often than not, the songs themselves are forgettable. This is just as well due to the insipid lyrics.

9 to 5 opened on Broadway on April 30, 2009, and ran for just over three months, garnering four Tony nominations, including Best Score, and a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Show Album. It boggles the mind. However, in spite of my opinion of the material, the NSMT production is acted and staged extremely well. Stafford’s pacing keeps everything moving at a fast clip and he utilizes the aisles and a couple of other areas away from the stage for some of the scenes.  Philip Witcomb is the Scenic Designer who effects set changes with furniture rising from below the stage or being lowered from the catwalks, and he has Members of The ensemble wheel the office desks and chairs on and off as needed. Paula Peasley-Ninestein authentically recreates the fashions of the era and gets creative with the costumes for the fantasy numbers when Judy, Doralee, and Violet imagine how they’d eliminate Hart. Philip Watson’s lighting design keeps our attention on all the right places. Sound design by Jessica Paz allows adequate balance between the voices and the North Shore Music Theatre Orchestra under the direction of Mark Hartman, but the sound quality is less than ideal.

In addition to Osborn and St. George, the cast is lead by Tony nominee Dee Hoty (Violet) and NSMT regular George Dvorsky (Hart), with Holly Davis (Judy), Derek Hanson (Joe), Patrick Boyd (Dwayne), and Amy Bodnar (Margaret) in featured roles. Hoty starred as Violet in the National Tour and is a great casting choice, especially after Lucie Arnaz had to withdraw due to an injury. She displays her brassy chops in an Act Two production number (“One of the Boys”) and shares a ballad with velvet-voiced Hanson. Dvorsky also has a lovely voice and is superbly disgusting as the “sexist, lying, egotistical bigot” who gets his comeuppance from his “girls.” Davis believably transforms from the timid, inexperienced new girl in her first job after being dumped by her husband, to the confident member of the trio staging the coup. It is her misfortune that Judy’s first song (“I Just Might”) owes a large debt to the theme song of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” but her reward is the eleven o’clock number (“Get Out and Stay Out”) which she belts to the rafters.

One of the problems with 9 to 5:The Musical is the innocence it portrays. Oh, sure, it involves kidnapping the boss and fantasies of killing him, but underlying the whole scheme is the intention for the women to take control of their own lives and do good in the workplace. They sing anthems about their freedom and rant about looking out for the little guy. They give everybody a lunch hour, improved benefits, and even establish a rehab program for a co-worker with an alcohol problem. In 2012, women still do not get equal pay for equal work. Maybe there ought to be a sequel with Violet, Doralee, and Judy going to Congress. That would be something to sing about.

Photo credit: Paul Lyden (Holly Davis, Shayla Osborn, Dee Hoty)

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From This Author Nancy Grossman