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BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL

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My first trip back to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium since February of 2020 was worth it.

BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL

Based on Colin Higgins' 1980 Academy Award nominated film of the same name, 9 to 5 follows three female coworkers in the late 1970s. Pushed to the boiling point, they team up to concoct a plan to get even with the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot they call their boss. In a hilarious turn of events, Violet, Judy, and Doralee live out their wildest fantasy - giving their boss the boot! While Franklin Hart remains "otherwise engaged," the women give their workplace a dream makeover, taking control of the company that had always kept them down.

After having its world premiere at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles over six months earlier, the musical opened on April 30th, 2009 at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. Directed by Joe Mantello (of Wicked fame) with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (who'd later find big success with Hamilton), the original cast starred Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, and Megan Hilty. Despite receiving 4 Tony Award nominations (including Best Original Score for Dolly Parton), the show wasn't successful as it ended up running for 148 performances after closing on September 6th of that year. When 9 to 5 went out on tour in 2010, Jeff Calhoun (who'd later find success with Newsies) took over as director/choreographer and worked with the writing team to improve upon the musical from its New York run. It is that version that's not only now available for schools and local theatres to produce, but it's also had a couple of successful productions in London.

Now I've only seen the original movie once a few months ago, so I'm not intimately familiar with it. Although from what I remember, it pretty much feels well represented in this adaptation. Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the film with director Colin Higgins, gets sole writing credit on the book for the musical. She has remained faithful to her original screenplay. However, the story strangely feels very relevant right now in a post-Me Too world. The score written by Dolly Parton is able to dive deeper into the emotions of the main characters very well. I imagine it must've been fun for her to do that since she co-starred in the movie. She has not only crafted songs that are catchy, but other ones that happen to be tender.

Under the direction of Eric Woodall, he has assembled a very talented cast of quadruple threats who can not only sing, dance, and act, but each of them also have great comic timing. The three leads I especially thought worked really well together. Lauren Kennedy as Violet Newstead, the head secretary of Consolidated Industries, gives a performance that is full of confidence. Which makes sense given that her role is supposed to be strong, ambitious, and typically stands up for what she believes in. Sara Jean Ford as Judy Bernly perfectly captures the butterfly effect of her character. In the beginning, she starts out as this insecure new girl at the firm who had never worked in an office before. Yet as the show goes on, she becomes much more determined and hopeful with where she's at in her job. It even all culminates in Judy's 11 o'clock number, 'Get Out and Stay Out', which Ford provides a strong rendition of. Ryah Nixon as Doralee Rhodes, a young, sexy spitfire at the firm, pretty much channels Dolly Parton (which I imagine is probably a hard thing not to do while playing the role), but does successfully make it her own without coming across as an impersonation.

As for the other performances, I found Ben Davis to be hilariously menacing as the firm's arrogant, self-absorbed boss, Franklin Hart. Lulu Picart as attentive office gossip queen and snitch, Roz Keith, gets a standout moment with both of her big numbers. In Act I, she sings about her obsessive love and fantasies for Franklin in 'Heart to Hart'. In Act II, she sings about how she believes he doesn't like her and that the time she isn't at work is lonely and boring in '5 to 9'. Jonah Ho'okano plays a young office accountant named Joe, who spends quite a bit of time smitten with Violet. This leads to a wonderful duet Jonah shares with Lauren Kennedy in the second act titled 'Let Love Grow'. Ira David Wood (iii) gives quite memorable appearance near the end of the show as the firm's Chairman of the Board, Mr. Tinsworthy.

One thing I noticed about 9 to 5 is that the second act runs about less than an hour. Musicals in general usually have longer first acts as they typically set up the conflict of the plot while the second act is shorter because that's when the characters resolve it. Yet, I'm not gonna complain about that because as Jeff Calhoun said while he was preparing 9 to 5 for its national tour, "a short show is a happy show." With energetic choreography by Robin Levene and lighting that does a great job of showing the audience where to look throughout (courtesy of Samuel Rushen), North Carolina Theatre's production of 9 to 5: The Musical proves to be a great night out. After the rough year and a half the whole world has gone through because of the pandemic, we could all use some feel-good laughter right now.


How To Get Tickets

This production is currently playing at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium through October 17th. For more information, please visit: https://nctheatre.com/shows/9-5


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From This Author Jeffrey Kare