If you were wondering if the 1980 movie 9 to 5 starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda could be successfully brought to the stage as a bona fide musical comedy – wonder no more. It’s even better. There sure are a lot of hit tunes in this here show, music and lyrics courtesy of Dolly Parton. Thank you, Dolly. And the book by Patricia Resnick following closely her screenplay for the movie is pitch perfect as well.
Taking up residency at the Marriott Marquis Theatre it should prove to be an extremely popular hit. It’s fresh and sassy and tons of fun. If laughter is the best medicine then you should take a double dose of 9 to 5 immediately. It’s well deserving of the 15 Drama Desk Award nominations it has received.
It’s a perfect escape from the doldrums of let’s just say, working in an office from nine to five every dreary day. And boasts a superlative cast with three of the most talented and charismatic women on Broadway today – Allison Janney as Violet who brings back fond memories of a wise cracking Roz Russell and brings the house down with “One of the Boys”, Megan Hilty as Double D Doralee who is doing an astounding job in looking and sounding like Dolly herself with her rendition of “Backwoods Barbie” which should become a breakaway hit, and Stephanie J. Block as newly divorced Judy who finally takes charge of her life and belts out a magnificent “Get Out and Stay Out” to her weasel of an ex-husband.
Three women so fed up with their sexist, egotistical, hypocritical, lying, bigot of a boss – a man you love to hate – Franklin Hart Jr. (a slick and slimy Marc Kudisch) that they kidnap him and hold him up in his own home while his wife is away on a cruise so that they can implement the memos that they have forged to make their workplace a better and more productive place of business. How they finagle themselves out of this mess is all part of the glorious fun of 9 to 5.
The look of the production couldn’t be better. It’s the first time I have felt that computerized sets (Scott Pask) that disappear into the floor (the original trapdoor has come a long way) and that flow in and out and around, becoming characters themselves in the seamless scene changes along with the great projections (Peter Nigrini & Peggy Eisenhauer) all work together beautifully – especially in the pot induced fantasy sequence. Beautifully lit by Jules Fisher & Kenneth Posner. Costumes by William Ivey Long are period perfect (just wondering how they could afford all those great outfits working as secretaries).
The action never stops and is craftily directed by Joe Mantello who knows just when to up the ante and when to quiet things down a bit. It’s a masterful job. Andy Blankenbuehler has come up with a choreographic style that is different and brings this show right up to date in a very stylish way. 9 to 5 is the feel good musical of the moment.
Other standout performances include Kathy Fitzgerald as Roz the long suffering, in love with her boss Mr. Hart. She has two wonderful songs “Heart to Hart” and “5 to 9” in which she more than holds her own in such terrific company. As the office lush, Margaret, Karen Murphy is priceless. Andy Karl who is the younger love interest for the older Violet is quite good in this subdued comic role and his “Let Love Grow” is a tender, heartfelt moment amidst all the mayhem.
The show is book-ended by the very catchy and famous title tune from 9 to 5. It was a wake up call for all women who were being treated badly and couldn’t get ahead just because they were women. Well, Dolly Parton and company helped to change all that. But there is still work to be done to let one and all “Shine Like the Sun” – a message delivered with humor and moxie.