Lauren McCombs, Julie McGuffey, & Jessica Adamson in 9 to 5.
9 to 5
Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Book by Patricia Resnick
From the Screenplay by Patricia Resnick and Colin Higgins
Directed by John R. Leffert
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2015, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Right from the beginning, Center Stage’s production sets itself apart from the other productions of the show produced locally in the last couple of years. This is the third time it’s been produced by a local theater company (I saw the productions at Derby Dinner Playhouse and Clarksville Little Theater) but this is the first of the three to make a no-brainer decision: in the opening number, we get to hear narration by the great Dolly Parton herself. I do a face-palm wondering why the other groups didn’t use it (it’s part of the package provided when you license the show) and it is a charming introduction bringing a bit of Dolly’s folksy charm to the proceedings and gives it a solid connection to the classic movie comedy on which it’s based.
So in short, Center Stage had me from the get-go.
It’s a great show and honestly it would be hard to go wrong with it anyway, but fans of Dolly’s music and the 1980’s film will really be charmed. For the uninitiated, it tells the story of three women in the corporate world of the 1970’s and the battles they face with their sexist-egotistical-lying-hypocritical-bigot of a boss, in particular, and the misogynistic business practices of the 70’s, in general. But really, it’s broad comedy so whatever message it conveys is delivered in broad strokes, to say the least.
Patricia Resnick’s book is a fairly faithful adaptation of her screenplay, with just a few tweaks to the story (some successful, some not) that may or may not make it play better with modern audiences. What sells the show is the 16 original Dolly Parton songs that make up the infectious score; every one of them is an instant classic. Even though occasionally her lyrics are a bit corny, I guarantee you won’t get the melodies out of your head.
John Leffert has directed an amazing cast, especially the trio of leading ladies that carry the show. As Violet, the frustrated corporate ladder-climber constantly thwarted in her efforts to move up, Julie Riehm McGuffey has both the best singing voice and comic timing in the piece. Her “One of the Boys” number, which opens the second act, is a show highlight. Also amazing in both voice and performance is Lauren McCombs as Judy, the recent divorcee entering the work force for the first time. She totally owns the show’s 11:00 number, “Get Out and Stay Out,” one of the best female-empowerment ballads ever composed for Broadway. And as Doralee, the role created by Dolly in the movie, Jessica Adamson nails it as the office pariah who can’t understand why everyone shuns her (she’s unaware the boss is spreading rumors about her). While her country accent sounds a bit forced at times, she looks and acts so much like the country legend its easily overlooked; her heartfelt rendition of “Backwoods Barbie” is just amazing.
The supporting cast is a bit more of a mixed bag; Rusty Henle has some good moments, but for the most part seems uncomfortable in his role as Franklin Hart, the evil boss at the center of the story. He acquits himself nicely in his big number “Here for You,” but he frequently seemed to have trouble with his lines and concentration. Ashleigh Skaggs is fun as the vampish Roz, the office tattle-tale in love with Hart, and she totally kills it in her “Hart to Hart” number (in fact, I daresay she’s a better singer than the role actually calls for), and James Craig is lovable in the role of Joe, a role that wasn’t in the film but shoehorned into the musical to create an unnecessary love interest for Violet. But their duet number, “Let Love Grow,” is one of my favorites in the piece, so I’ll let it go.
On the technical side, Wes Shofner’s set design works well with Theresa Bagan’s amazingly colorful lighting to create an entirely believable 1970’s office environment, and actually succeeds in making the set look bigger than it is. Frank Goodloe II’s choreography is energetic and fun, while Butch Sager’s costumes are period perfect.
If you are a fan of the original film, a fan of Dolly Pardon’s music, or just a fan of great musical comedy, this show is a must see. Check it out before it’s gone!
Featuring Jessica Adamson, David Beach, Jim Craig, Michael Detmer, Gene Dorf, Lars Hafell, Rusty Henle, Mandi Elkins Hutchins, Alfred Jones Jr., Jasmine O. Lanham, Lauren McCombs, Julie Riehm McGuffey, Maggie Patten, Alonzo Richmond, Britt Roarx, Ashley Skaggs, Timothy Stucky, Amy Wheatley, and Marcy Ziegler.
9 to 5
Center Stage at JCC
3600 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY 40206
[box_light]Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo. [/box_light]