BWW Review: 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL is a 10! at The STAGE Theater
Hickman, Nebraska has a local treasure: The STAGE Theater. And right now you can catch the Twentieth Century Fox film turned stage musical by Patricia Resnick and Colin Higgins (book) and Dolly Parton (music and lyrics), 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL through March 15.
This production is a 10! Every minute seeing 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL is time well spent. The antics and music delivered by four amazingly talented leads with solid supporting actors and ensemble are perfection. The detailed set, lighting, and gorgeous costumes all work together to tell the story of a 1979 office where female employees type on IBM Selectric typewriters, talk on beige colored push button desk phones, and combat a toxic work environment. Women find their voices silenced, their bodies disrespected, and their value underrated by a caricature of a boss who exaggerates all of the negative attributes of a chauvinistic, egotistical, hypocritical man.
Judy Bernley (Natalie Nuckolls) arrives at Consolidated Industries as a total newbie. She has never worked as a secretary (or anything else) before. She was recently dumped by her husband, Dick (Christian Cardona), for another woman. Violet Newstead (Julie Enersen) takes Judy under her wing, assuring her that she can help her survive office life. Doralee Rhoades (Chloe Schwarting), a blonde bombshell with a Southern accent, rejects the advances of her lecherous boss, Franklin Hart (Sam Ninegar), while her coworker, Roz Keith (Laura Lynn Horst), pines for him. Junior accountant Joe (Michael J. Corner) pursues Violet, a widow who terms herself a "one man woman." Her son Josh (Grant Schirmer) encourages her to smoke marijuana and relax. The three women share a doobie and express a common goal to rid themselves of the toxic Mr. Hart. The outcome is hilarious with a most satisfying result.
These women amaze me. Chloe Schwarting in the role Dolly Parton made famous could not be a more perfect fit. Her porcelain doll beauty and fragile heart are balanced by an unexpected steely resolve when she is backed into a corner. She may be seen as a "Backwoods Barbie," but give her a gun and she just might change a rooster into a hen. Julie Enersen as the fiery Violet leaves no doubt that she is a woman who knows her worth. Her confidence shines through in a powerful "One of the Boys." Natalie Nuckolls epitomizes a demure Judy who has been wronged by the man in her life. But don't sell her short. Nuckolls pulls out all the stops in "Get Out and Stay Out." Enersen, Schwarting, and Nuckolls are incredibly adept at displaying nuanced emotions. They can elicit a laugh for the smallest of gestures. What's more--they become real people with fleshed out characters and we care about them. Each is a gifted vocalist who can deliver a solo or combine their voices in chilling harmony such as in "I Just Might."
Sam Ninegar nails the despicable Franklin Hart. His portrayal of the lecherous chauvinist couldn't be more accurate. Even with his exaggerated sense of comedy, he is just so right. Ninegar is hilarious. He is odious. And he sings extremely well.
Michael J. Corner's ballad "Let Love Grow" is heartfelt and sweet. Laura Lynn Horst's rendition of "Heart to Hart" is full on torch with backup dancers in matching burgundy suits and silver wigs.
Commendable choreography (Jenna Richter-Nasif and Natalie Nuckolls) and costumes (Violet Spader and Robert Wamsley) combine together to create eye catching scenes. "One of the Boys" is a black and silver sequin feast for the eyes with an amusing twist and feel of a big stage number. "Potion Notion" brings in the whimsical with a Disney-like addition of fluffy props.
Robert Wamsley does it all as Director, Scenic Design, Costumer Design, and Lighting Design (with Emmy Lou Harris and Corby Stolcpart). Assistant director Emmy Lou Harris also serves as Lighting Operator. Justin Eisenbeis is Music Director in addition to performing the role of Dwayne. Natalie Nuckolls also acts as Dance Captain. It is impressive how the cast and crew are so completely integrated. Maybe that is why this small theater can pull off such a fantastic production. The music is great. The visuals are interesting. The laughs are plentiful. What could be a better combination? The STAGE Theater deserves high marks for a great show.
Photo Credit: Cohagen Wilkinson
Performances run March 5-8 and 12-15. www.theSTAGEtheater.com