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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 15
Workin' it: 9 to 5 the Musical
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Workin' it: 9 to 5 the Musical

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

9 to 5 the Musical
5th Avenue Theatre
Through April 24


We've all had bosses we thought were 'sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigots,' and maybe, at one time or another, we've even imagined getting revenge and plotting their downfall. But few of us would ever do it, and a even fewer would have as much fun as Violet, Judy, and Doralee do in the musical presentation of the cinema classic 9 to 5. Currently playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre, the latest screen-to-stage adaptation to come to Seattle via Broadway has arrived.

The story follows three different types of women who merge in the common secretary pool of the late 1970s. Judy (Mamie Parris) is a fresh divorcée making her debut in the workforce with absolutely no experience. Violet (Dee Hoty) is a widowed single mother, who runs the office perfectly and yet is constantly passed over for promotion because of her gender. Doralee (Diana DeGarmo) is a walking 'backwoods Barbie' who, unbeknownst to her, is suspected of sleeping with the boss, the 'sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot' Frank Hart (Joseph Mahowalkd). After a series of slapstick misunderstandings, Violet thinks she accidentally poisoned their misogynistic boss, only to find he is wise to their mistake - and in return, he accuses them of attempted murder. To prevent Hart from going to the police, the trio kidnap and hold him hostage, until they find some sort of dirt to blackmail him and keep him silent. What they find is that no one at the office misses the boss, and so in his absence, the ladies give the entire department a makeover with new programs and better working conditions that unite the office, increasing productivity.

Seattle and Broadway veteran Dee Hoty plays Violet and takes the role by the horns to make it her own. Ms. Hoty steps out and away from the lingering shadow cast by the hugely popular 1980 film, and gives a performance that is not only original, but is endearing and entertaining as well. She shows the unraveling of Violet's steel nerves by facial expressions and body language without getting into slapstick cloning. Her frustrations with office politics come out musically in the song 'Around Here,' and her confidence exudes through the second-act song 'One of the Boys,' showing her character's sleek style and efficiency in an office position of power. While paying homage to both her predecessors - Lily Tomlin in the film and Allison Janney on Broadway - Ms. Hoty's talent allowed her own skills to shine, filling the large shoes laid out before her.

While the others were all good, they were mostly good at impersonating the film's characters. Mamie Parris as Judy is just fine, but she doesn't allow the character to stand out. It takes the show's eleventh-hour number of self-realization - 'Get Out and Stay Out' - to show she's anything different from what was captured on celluloid. In this fantastic and beautifully belted ballad, the character is allowed to break out, becoming original and finally giving her role some long-overdue notice. Her voice is clear, powerfully raising the energy of the theater's audience by emoting Judy's newly found confidence and owning of self. This song changes everything for the character and she completely becomes alive for the rest of the musical - the only problem is that there's about 10 minutes left of the show at that point.

Diana DeGarmo does a great job as Doralee, the role made so famous by Dolly Parton - too good a job. Why not, though? She has the impersonation down, from the walk to the cute squeakiness of Dolly's tone of voice. Her being a runner-up of the third season of American Idol proved she has a voice and talent; unless you include 'impersonation' on the list, we only get glimpses into the power she has inside. Her song 'Backwoods Barbie' is a sentimental song sung with country gusto, and at the same time it's a tease. The song shows the audience what could be done if this talented lady had been given a chance to be less a walking celluloid copy.

Comedian Kristine Zbornik wonderfully plays Roz, the office spy and snitch. She allows the character a more comical and humane side, and has a fully developed passion for Hart. While declaring her love in 'Heart to Hart,' Roz's body moves in a way reminiscent of Carol Burnett, thanks to the gracefulness of her body's bungling gestures.

There have been some changes made from the film version to the stage production. Violet is given the love interest of a younger man, which - while amusing - neither adds nor detracts from the storyline. Judy's fantasy of hunting Hart on safari has been changed to a film noir gangster scene, and it works fine, the point is made. One thing stands out: the boss' chair is still broken - an important factor in the movie - but it's never used for anything except the occasional sight gag in the first act, so why bother?

The music is definitely enjoyable, with the familiar title song rewritten Broadway-style. Dolly Parton not only wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, but also makes an appearance (via a short film clip) to introduce and conclude the performance. Although cute and comforting as it may be to see her, it only served as a reminder that there is a previous film version out there.

The cast, music, and story are all good enough, but for some reason it doesn't explode the way it should. It may be silly, but it is fun, and above all else, it is entertaining. Forget the overt familiarity of the film, escape from whatever currently plagues you, turn your mind off, and enjoy. Follow those instructions and you won't be disappointed.

9 to 5 the Musical made its debut on Broadway April 7, 2009, and ran for a total of 172 performances (including previews) and was nominated for four 2009 Tony Awards including Best Original Score Written for the Theatre (Dolly Parton). The original film 9-5 was released in 1980, with the title song nominated for the 1981 Academy, Golden Globe, and Grammy Awards for Best Original Song.

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