Book by: Patricia Resnick
Music & Lyrics by: Dolly Parton
Company: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Venue: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale Street, Colorado Springs, CO.
Date of Performance: Friday, May 27, 2016.
Based on the 1980 movie of virtually the same name, 9 to 5 The Musical (hereafter 9 to 5) premiered in Los Angeles in September, 2008. The 1980 hit film starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton, three of the most successful women working at that time in Hollywood. It was the the second biggest grossing film that year, finishing behind The Empire Strikes Back. The comedy was successful because of (or in spite of, depending on your opinion) a starkly feminist message. That it starred three of the biggest stars available at the time undoubtedly powered a lot of its success, as did Dolly Parton’s catchy theme song.
9 to 5 The Musical opened some 28 years later to mixed reviews in both Los Angeles and on Broadway, but Parton’s music was nominated for Drama Desk and Tony awards. 9 to 5 hasn’t lost any of it’s original appeal from the 1980 film, and the big hair, big ideas musical is now showing at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) through June 12.
9 to 5 is not just a musical; it’s also a powerful statement about women in the workplace. The message that drove the film’s production in the late 1970’s is also central to the musical, and it is still relevant today. Accordingly, I think it fair to address both the artistic value and the feminist relevance of 9 to 5 in this review.
In the hands of Director/Choreographer Nathan Halvorsen, the FAC production is a feast for the eyes and ears. Halvorsen has preserved the essence of the original film, making Franklin Hart (well played here by Stephen Day) as unlikable as possible. He turns his trio of co-stars (Miriam Roth, Jennifer DeDominici, and Crystal Mosser) loose on Hart, giving them the giggles as they take down their boss. Halvorsen is doing double duty as director and choreographer, two jobs rarely combined for a single person. He must have a bottomless supply of talent and drive to put his touch on both.
|Crystal Mosser (Doralee) Jennifer DeDominici (Judy), & Miriam Roth (Violet).|
Halvorsen’s casting of Roth, DeDominici and Mosser is inspired; the three have an abundance of talent and an obvious chemistry with each other. There’s an unlikely scene in the first act where the three gals get stoned, and it’s precious.
DeDominici’s “Maui Wowie” line drops on the stage like a flower floating on a pond in some smoky dream; she’s clearly intoxicated with weed. The three share an unforgettable hash fueled bonding, establishing themselves as a potent force for both fun and rebellion. Once the reefer wears off, the three are reminiscent of Dumas' Three Musketeers: one for all and all for one.
Stephen Day plays the villain boss, Franklin Hart, and he’s a perfect fit. Rude, crude and lewd, Day seems to enjoy tormenting the women in his life, making revenge that much sweeter for them. Day has a number in the first act (Here for You), and he nails it. When he started singing, I sat up straight in my seat. His strong melodic voice is an outstanding counterbalance for the women’s voices that carry most of the show tunes.
This is the second time I’ve seen Jen Lennon on the FAC stage, and she has stolen a scene in both shows. Here, it’s her number Heart to Hart. She belts it out, and it’s a stunner. Lennon plays it for laughs, and she gets them.
FAC’s production is flawless, from the 1970’s supergraphic set design (skillfully executed by Erik D. Diaz) to the creative lighting (Holly Anne Rawls). Alex Ruhlin’s effective sound design expertly mixes the voices and the orchestra. Lex Liang’s costume designs are splashy 1970’s vintage, and Jonathan Eberhardt has recreated all the bad hair days of the disco decade. How Mr. Eberhardt got Crystal Mosser’s wig to stay on her head is probably a trade secret. As with the illusion of a magician, it’s probably better that we don’t know how Eberhardt works his magic.
Parton’s music is perhaps the best part of 9 to 5. The tunes are perky, pertinent, and advance the plot, although none are as fun as the theme/title song. The 2008 book/script makes no attempt to update the 1970’s screenplay, which is unfortunate. There is still abundant advantage take of women in the workplace, although it may be more subtle now. A book/script that preserved the themes in a contemporary workplace could have been more effective than a flashback to the office environment of 1980. Such an update would have made the story more relevant to a millennial generation, while advancing the notion that the progress women have made at work is far from complete.
Which brings me to the real message of 9 to 5. It is overtly feminist. The genius of the original film was that the feminist medicine went down with a spoonful of sugar; that is, the comedy took the edge off the politics. That’s still the case with the musical version, but the message arguably needs more edge and bite more than it did in 1980. The humor now seems to diminish rather than articulate the message.
Equality in the workplace is arguably more urgent now than it was when the film came out. The film and the musical both empower women to take charge and make changes. Unfortunately, those changes seem inadequate after several decades, and worse, potentially in jeopardy. We have a candidate for the highest office in the country who proudly dismisses, insults, and degrades women. I don’t say that just as a personal opinion; there are plenty of examples available here, here, here, here, and here. These are just samples; a Google search will yield hundreds of such hits. Extending his attitude toward women in any workplace would be an insufferable setback; extending it to the White House would be an colossally bad example for others.
9 to 5 is breakthrough film/musical that empowers women in the workplace. Not only is the message of 9 to 5 still relevant; it is more compelling than ever. I know people walked out of the theater humming the title song. I only hope they are also mulling over the real message of 9 to 5. Our wives, our sisters, and our daughters still need to hear that message.
There is ample free street parking in the area and in the lot across the street from the theater. This show is suitable for all ages.
This show closes on June 12, 2016.
Photo Credit: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Producing Artistic Director: Scott RC Levy
Director/Choreographer: Nathan Halvorson
Music Director: Jay Hahn
Scenic Design: Erik D. Diaz
Sound Design: Alex Ruhlin
Lighting Design: Holly Anne Rawls
Properties Design: Liz Hultz
Costume Designer: Lex Liang
Hair & Makeup Design: Jonathan Eberhardt
Production Stage Manager: Kaetlyn Springer
Flying Effects: ZFX, Inc.
Judy Bernly: Jennifer DeDominici
Violet Newstead: Miriam Roth
Doralee Rhodes: Crystal Mosser
Franklin M. Hart Jr.: Stephen Day
Roz Keith: Jen Lennon
Joe: Zachary Seliquini Guzman
Dwayne: Brian McClure
Josh: Josh Owen
Missy: Alannah Vaughn
Maria: Marisa Dannielle Hebert
Dick: Thomas Voss
Kathy: Sierra Reynolds
Margaret: Solveig Olsen
Bob Enright: Kody Maynard
Tinsworthy: Jerry Mcauley II
Ensemble: Grant Brown, Alex Campbell, Nathan Ferrick, Sammy Gleason, Marisa Dannielle Hebert, Tracy Hedding, Kody Maynard, Jerry McCauley II, Solveig Olsen, Sierra Reynolds, Carmen Vreeman Shedd, Alannah Vaughn, Thomas Voss.
Dolly’s Darlings (Orchestra):
Conductor: Jay Hahn
Guitars: Jim Robertson & Jason Vaughn
Bass: Jay McGuffin
Keyboards: Sharon Skidgel
Trombone: Rick Crafts
Trumpet: Chris Walters
Reeds: Ed Hureau & Cully Joyce
Percussion: Richard Clark