Entertainment » Theatre

9 to 5: The Musical

by Jennifer Chen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Sep 25, 2008
 Stephanie J. Block, Allison Janney, and Megan Hilty in "9 to 5: The Musical"
Stephanie J. Block, Allison Janney, and Megan Hilty in "9 to 5: The Musical"  (Source: Craig Schwartz)

With music and lyrics by seven-time Grammy award winner Dolly Parton and book by "9 to 5" original screenwriter Patricia Resnick, 9 to 5: The Musical brings the 1980 film to life on stage. Fun, whimsical, off-color, and full of fantasy, the show, bound for Broadway in April 2009, is having its world premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown at the Music Center. Two-time Tony award-winner Joe Mantello directs a star-studded cast including the brilliant Allison Janney along with Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty, both fresh from the musical "Wicked."

Opening with Parton's hit song, "9 to 5" lights up the full ensemble on its way to work, heading to the ubiquitous cubicles for a typical eight-hour workday. At the Consolidated Company, secretaries are a dime a dozen and treated as such. Fresh from a divorce, wide-eyed Judy Bernly (Stephanie J. Block) meets Violet Newstead (Allison Janney) who oversees all the secretaries. Whip smart Violet butts heads with company head Franklin Hart, Jr., who is aptly described later as a "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot." Shunned by every woman in the office, busty and beautiful Doralee Rhodes (Megan Hilty) discovers that Hart has told everyone she is sleeping with him. Joining forces, the trio of Judy, Violet, and Doralee traps their boss in his own home for a good dose of revenge.

The acting and singing in "9 to 5: The Musical" is superb from the lead characters straight through to the ensemble. Kathy Fitzgerald is a stand out as Roz, Hart's nosy assistant, singing a great sendoff called "5 to 9," detailing her sadness when leaving work and being away from her beloved boss. Megan Hilty embodies Dolly Parton in her swagger and Southern twang, and when she sings "Backwoods Barbie," she channels Dolly at her best. And Janney, brand new to musicals, brings her wonderful comedic talents to the production, and in her number "One of the Boys," proves that she has the musical chops as well.

With a great score, stunning cast, and fanciful set design, "9 to 5: The Musical" does not disappoint fans of musical theater. The stage quickly transforms from office to home and back in the exquisite set designs by Scott Pask. From Doralee's sleek dresses to the traditional tan secretary shoes, the 80s are very much alive again in William Ivey Long's costumes. The only jarring moments in the whole show occur when anachronisms slip into the script such as references to the Nike slogan "Just do it!" and the ubiquitous phrase "24/7." They should be excised.

This new musical is a lighthearted examination of glass ceilings -- gearing up its audience to cheer on the beleaguered secretaries at Consolidated Company while jeering at the swaggering, arrogant Franklin Hart. Before the musical heads to New York for its Broadway debut, be sure to check out "9 to 5: The Musical" for a heel kicking good time for both cubicle and non-cubed employees everywhere.

Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Running time: 2 and a half hours with one intermission. Through October 19. Tuesday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m & 6:30pm. Additional matinee Thursday, October 16 at 2 p.m. $30-100. (213) 628-2772 www.centertheatregroup.org.

Jennifer Chen is an editor, magazine writer, and young adult novelist based in Los Angeles with an MFA in dramatic writing.


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