For quite a while movies have been the inspiration for Broadway musicals. Currently, Huntington Playhouse is presenting “9 to 5,” a musical based on the movie from 1980.
Like a lot of other musicals, “9 to 5” has a simple premise. In the office workplace, there is a complete jerk of a boss whose strongest trait is his sexism. What could be a show raising issues of social justice and equality instead is a traditional musical comedy in the spirit of big Broadway musicals. Huntington’s “9 to 5” has a good cast and orchestra.
Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics for “9 to 5” and the film featured her with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It was satire that tackled a huge problem. The fact that the musical is so extreme is probably the reason that the stage version continues to work. There are still idiot bosses and ill-used employees.
The show’s opening number, the title song, introduces the characters. Rebecca Gellott is Violet, a working mother, and her son Josh. Keli Schimelpfenig is Doralee, an overripe full-blown Texas stereotype. Holly Feiler is Judy, the new girl in the office. The catchy, country song gets the production off to a good start and features the whole cast. It really captures the spirit of the movie a third of a century ago.
Brett Hall has got to enjoy playing the outrageous over-the-top role of Franklin Hart. Blatantly sexist, Hart sends women scrambling for coffee and berates them if it does not have enough sweetner in it. Hall establishes the character firmly when he invites Doralee in for “dictation” and expects sex. His song, “Here for You” makes it clear that he will have his way over her protests.
The trio of women are the heroes of the musical. In that sense, “9 to5” is different from most shows. Each of the ladies gets a song to act out a revenge fantasy or show her true feelings about Hart. The “new girl” at the office is Judy, planed by Holly Feiler. She has a stylized song “The Dance of Death” which suggests a gruesome but appropriate ending for Hart. Hart falsely claims he is having an affair with Doralee, and when the other women shun her, she sings the ballad “Backwoods Barbie.” Violet gets to poison him with “Potion Notion.”
The finale of the first act is boss Hart hanged – swinging at the top of the stage. Not a traditional musical in this sense.
I enjoyed the Huntingon production. The trio of ladies work well together and are a strong anchor for the action. Lisa Hirzel, too, gets a lot of laughs as the office snitch, Roz, who is secretly in love with Hart.
Director Tom Meyrose does not have a Broadway budget for sets, but the pieces here suggest the locations, and the show keeps the brisk pace that it needs to succeed. This is no small task, so kudos to the hard working crew.
Music Director Kira Seaton presides over a dozen musicians. Credit Parton’s melodic score for much of the lasting appeal of the show. “9 to5” runs through August 4 at Huntington Playhouse. Despite the overarching theme of office “affairs”, the production is family friendly. In fact, a fourth of the cast is one family. Mom and dad Hirzel and three of their children are in the show. What an awesome, and non-traditional, family activity.