BWW Review: STAGES St. Louis's Hilarious Must-See 9 TO 5
It's not surprising that the 1980 film 9 to 5 was turned into a musical, since it's revenge driven farcical plot is a natural fit, and it's a period piece, so it has that going for it as well. Plus, you have Dolly Parton, whose physical attributes sometimes make one forget how great a songwriter she is, providing material written for the show, and adding pieces plucked from her own recordings. It's a great show for a strong and varied female cast, and STAGES' current production doesn't disappoint, with the lead roles filled by outstanding performers. And, one thing is certain, it's a real crowd-pleaser, generating tons of laughs, and a number of memorable moments.
Patricia Resnick's book (she also co-wrote the screenplay) follows the movie pretty closely, only jettisoning or re-working some small bits here and there. It's the story of a group of office workers, mostly woman on the lower rungs, who must deal with a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot as CEO. Franklin Hart, Jr. is supposed to represent the worst of corporate America from the late 1970's and early 80's, and he certainly does, riding roughshod over his employees while chasing his misunderstood secretary, Doralee, around his office. Single mother and longtime employee Violet, has worked her way up to a glass ceiling which Hart won't allow her to break, so she has an ax to grind as well. And then there's the newbie, Judy, about to be divorced, and desperately trying to keep up, while being ridiculed by Hart for a copier mishap. It's no wonder these three wind up kidnapping and imprisoning their boss in his own home when the opportunity presents itself.
Corrine Melancon is excellent as Violet Newstead, fed up with being unable to break into the "boys club" that management has become, she accurately sums up the state of affairs in the fantasy number "One of the Boys," and shines in a lovely duet. Let Love Grow," with Joe (a splendid and likable Jason Michael Evans), who's trying to wrangle a relationship with her and running up against a brick wall, despite her son's prodding. Laura E. Taylor does very strong work as the inhibited Judy Bernly, finally growing a backbone to address her soon to be ex-husband (the gold chain and leather jacket wearing Steve Isom) when she delivers "Get Out and Stay Out." Summerisa Bell Stevens is pitch perfect, and just about steals the show, as Doralee Rhodes, her boundless enthusiasm and twangy voice being well suited to the great one-liners she hands out, as well as for engaging numbers like "Backwoods Barbie." Joe Cassidy disappoints a bit as Franklin Hart, Jr. He's caustic, rude, and perpetually horny, but lacks bluster, and seems a bit over-matched at times. Kari Ely does remarkable work as Roz Keith, and really brings the house down with her lusty rendition of "Heart to Hart," as she privately reveals her desires for Franklin. Brent Michael DiRoma is hunky as Doralees's husband, Zoe Vonder Haar makes a vivid and amusing impression as the tipsy Margaret, and John Flack is funny in full CoL. Sanders regalia as Tinsworthy.
Michael Hamilton directs and stages this production with considerable style, and with a generous nod to the period portrayed. He's aided by the enthusiastic choreography of Dana Lewis, and Lisa Campbell Albert's expert music direction. Brad Musgrove's costumes are great throwbacks to the era on display, and really pull out all the stops during the fantasy sequences. James Wolk's changeable scenic design allows for fast transitions, and is enhanced by the clever lighting design of Sean M. Savoie.
STAGES St. Louis's production of 9 TO 5, the musical, is filled with bawdy humor and catchy songs, and the superb cast seems to be having an absolute ball with the material. I highly recommend that you catch this show, which is running through August 20, 2017 at the Robert G. Reim Auditorium.