9 to 5
Written by Dolly Parton (music & lyrics)
‘9 to 5’ clocks in as a raucous, nostalgic triumph
|Marriott Theatre presents|
|9 to 5|
Review by Catey Sullivan
Those among us who survived the big hair, shoulder pads and polyester pantsuits of the 1980s will revel in the retro-ambiance of 9 to 5. But even those who don’t recall the era of White-Out, typewriters, Sanka and Atari will find a lot to love in the Marriott Lincolnshire’s staging of the musical based on the 1980 movie of the same name. Directed by David Bell and featuring a winning trio of leading ladies, the musical penned by Dolly Parton (with a book by Patricia Resnick) is great fun .
The wigs alone provide a comic revue of the unfortunate coifs of the era, from spiral perms to chicken feathered bangs. (And whoever decided that all the men in the show should sport porn ‘staches was simply inspired. ) Costume designer Nancy Missimi‘s polyester pantsuits (men) and chunky blazers (women) are pitch-perfect. Finally, set designer Thomas M. Ryan has niftily overcome the truly tricky task of creating a desk-filled office that allows for snazzy dance numbers and accommodates the Marriott’s in-the-round configuration. Even the blocking here is amusing: In a very funny nod to the show’s story of men objectifying women, Bell sometimes positions the guys as nothing more than objects. When the ladies of Consolidated Inc. repair to their powder room, the guys are reduced to literally becoming part of the scenery.
For all its outrageous absurdities – and there are plenty here, ranging from pot-fueled, cowgirl revenge fantasies to a deux ex machina corporate big wig who shows up in the final scene – the movie hit a nerve in the feminist zeitgeist. It not only reflected the epic levels of chauvinistic asshattery that working women have put up with since the dawn of the steno pool; it told a story wherein the little guy triumphed over the bullying boss.
Yet while “9 to 5” remains utterly relevant 33 years after its big-screen release, there’s no denying that the stage incarnation of the show comes with a suite of baggage. The movie famously starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as three much-abused secretaries working for Dabney Coleman’s uber-rotten boss. Re-creating roles rendered indelible by such star power is no easy task, but the Marriott’s cast manages nicely.
Leading the charge for empowerment in 9 to 5 is Violet Newstead (Kelli Cramer), a single-mom and uber-capable corporate soldier who swallows all manner of indignities from the boorish CEO Franklin Hart (James Moye). She’s joined in the office-cum-old-boys-club by the equally long-suffering Doralee Rhodes (Alexandra Palkovic), a "backwoods Barbie" whose voluminous blonde hair and equally impressive décolletage can’t mask the fact that she’s smart as a whip and handy with a pistol. The newest member in the secretarial ranks is Judy Bernly (Susan Moniz), a recent divorcee who is (at least initially) cowering, easily intimidated and annoyingly willing to take her two-timing lout of a husband back.
A fortuitous mishap with rat poison suddenly triggers the ladies into hogtying the boorish boss and stringing him up like an overstuffed sausage. The dramatic tension is minimal; you know the women aren’t going to wind up convicted of kidnapping and sent to a Supermax. The fun of the show lies in taking in cast’s consistently terrific performances. As Violet, Cramer delivers a character of backbone and intelligence, a savvy single mom with a no-nonsense demeanor and knack for withering, under-the-breath one-liners . Alexandra Palkovic imbues Doralee with sass and smarts while Moniz lets loose on the anthemic "Get Out and Stay Out" with an I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar belt that’s all about empowerment.
As for the odious Franklin Hart, Moye darn near steals the show embodying all the skeevy qualities that make Consolidated ‘s Chief Executive Officer a villain you love to hate.
In all, 9 to 5 clocks in as a triumph.
9 to 5 continues through October 13th at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire (map), with performances Wednesdays at 1pm and 8pm, Thursdays/Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 4:30pm and 8pm, Sundays 1pm and 5pm. Tickets are $35-$48 ($55 for dinner/performance package), and are available by phone (847-634-0200) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at MarriottTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Peter Coombs
Kelli Cramer (Violet Newstead), Susan Moniz (Judy Bernly), Alexandra Palkovic (Doralee Rhodes), James Moye (Franklin Hart, Jr.), Marya Grandy (Roz Keith), Ben Jacoby (Joe), Brian Bohr (Josh, Ensemble), Brandi Wooten (Missy, Ensemble), Ericka Mac (Maria, Ensemble), Stef Tovar (Dick, Ensemble), Christine Mild (Kathy, Ensemble), Holly Stauder (Margaret, Ensemble), Richard Strimer (Bob Enright, Ensemble), Robin Alexis Childress (Anita, Ensemble), Devin DeSantis (Dwayne, Ensemble), Natalie Myre (Daphne, Ensemble), Melissa Zaremba (Ensemble, Dance Captain), Bryan Howard Conner, Jerry Galante, Laura Savage, J. Tyler Whitmer (Ensemble)
behind the scenes
David H. Bell (director), Aaron Thielen (artistic director), Ryan T. Nelson (music director), Thomas M. Ryan (set design), Nancy Missimi (costume design), Jesse Klug (lighting design), Bob Gilmartin (sound design), Sally Weiss (props design), Patti Garwood (orchestra conductor), Peter Coombs (photos)