You Deserve a Break Today
We’ve all heard those jokes about the corporation. In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation, came out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” 9 to 5 takes place at the grimly conformist Consolidated Corporation, where every man (or woman) is an island, and no one escapes the threat of a knife in the back or an escort out of the building by a security guard. Yet the excitement and creativity of the director, cast, band, and all associated with Fairfax High School’s production make even grim Consolidated seem as much fun to hang out in as Hernando’s Hideaway.
The show (based on the 1980 movie) revolves around women; Amanda Harvey (Judy), is a spirited, well-meaning girl who has just had a tough break; being dumped by her husband for 19 year-old secretary, Mindi, with an i. Harvey is a wonderful singer and actress and the growth of her confidence and skill is not only touching but an inspiration to anyone who has ever had a tough break, which is everyone. As the Dolly Parton character, the amazingly beautiful, and married, country girl, Doralee, Emily Ennis has the audience cheering as she threatens to turn Hart from a rooster into a hen for bragging about their nonexistent office affair. And Caroline Silas (Violet) finds just the combination of world-weary intelligence and humor and pathos which make the character so attractive. Eva Peterson (Roz) makes a stunning transition from uptight corporate enforcer to aspiring Cleopatra.
At one point, as office tattletale Roz (Eva Petersen) proclaims her passion for devious, hilariously obnoxious boss Mr. Hart, a group of high-kicking blondes in wigs just like hers line up behind her. There is a female CEO number, with the ambitious and determined Violet (Caroline Silas) backed up by a line of men in suits; what else? As neophyte Judy (Amanda Harvey) is shown the ropes by doing–all-the-work-but-never-promoted Violet, the ensemble lets loose with “Around Here,” a rousing salute to getting it done, all work, no play, all the time, which in today’s world is what we call ‘business as usual.’
Doug Klain (Hart) plays to perfection the sexist, scheming, hypocritical and utterly insensitive boss from hell, named, ironically, Mr. Hart. He uses every trick in the book, from dropping pencils so he can observe Doralee picking them up, to taking credit for Violet’s ideas, to making tacky jokes and calling all the women his girls. Everything the working woman has to endure is here, from being chased around the desk, to being passed over for promotion by a man, to being insulted for being “just a secretary.” The beauty of the story is that the revenge the three women take on Mr. Hart, their tormentor, is so funny and so entertaining that it reminds us of what musicals are really all about. As the two “good guys” Howard Kim, Dwayne, Doralee’s husband, and Matt Whitacre, as Joe, Violet’s love interest, provide an attractive male alternative to the horror that is Hart.
Among the ensemble, Cameron LeDucq is a standout as Margaret, who keeps champagne in a drawer and spends a good bit of time with her head on her desk. Her miraculous recovery after a stint in rehab is one of the many deft touches which make the production so enjoyable. As Judy’s ex-husband, Dick, Daniel Serpati captures the straying and repentant husband’s casual attitude and subsequent remorse with easygoing charm. Logan Floyd (Missy), Katie Ryan (Kathy) and Renee Rozell (Maria) each portray unique personalities, and Amir Almaleki (Josh) and John Vasquez (Bob) are equally effective in their roles. The Detective (Michael Sulpizio), the Cop (Phoenix Noiwan), and the Candy Striper (Tia Maxfield) all do their part to make the hospital sequence one of the most hilarious in the production. As Tinsworthy, Sean Gabaree brings it all home with a flourish as he, the one person with any control over Hart, finally ensures that he gets his comeuppance.
The ensemble as a whole is simply sensational. Their energy and commitment provide the engine which powers the show to an outstanding level of achievement. They are: Amir Almaleki, Molly Berry, Rachel Cahoon, Maeve Costello, Kate Costello, Sean Gabaree, Allison Grainge, Sierra Hoffman, Pari Karkehabadi, Sara Latimer, Cameron LeDucq, Tia Maxfield, Amanda McGuire, Phoenix Noiwan, Shannon O’Connor, Kelly Park, Bobby Pazhwak, Renee Rozell, Katie Ryan, Michael Sulpizio, and Janey Silas.
Artistic Director/Choreographer Erich DiCenzo has an exciting vision for Fairfax High. He has realized it to a T with this professional-quality production. It is what they used to call a real smasheroo. Music, dancing, high energy, talented teenagers; this musical has it all, and there is never a dull moment. The show does things well which can only be done in the theatre, and it reminds us of why we go to the theatre; because it’s fun!
Dolly Parton’s music is an utter delight; melodic, infectious, and sometimes just plain beautiful. The Book (Patricia Resnick) and Lyrics (Dolly Parton) are droll and diverting. The direction and choreography, by the multi-talented Mr. DiCenzo, are a joy to behold. The power and energy of the cast is palpable; they practically blow the roof off the theatre. What a treat to see a musical so pumped up with the sheer thrill of being alive.
The choreography is brilliantly designed and extremely well executed; kudos to Choreographer DiCenzo, Assistant Choreographer Andrea Heininge, and to the Female Swings, Rachel Cahoon and Logan Floyd, as well as the Dance Ensemble, Logan Floyd (Captain), Bennett Green, Lila Johnson, Howard Kim, Melvin Lopez, Daniel Serpati, Katie Tomney, John Vasquez, and Matt Whitacre. Principal Vocal Coach Luke Frels has done a superb job; everyone is in fine voice, and everyone sounds distinctive.
The pit orchestra, under Music al Director/Conductor Kirsten Boyd, doesn’t miss a beat. Costumes by Tabatha Ryberg are varied, colorful, and always enhance the character. The Set/Scenery team has solved the many challenges of the production with style and effectiveness. Lighting Designers Alex Pepin & Sarah Heaton, Sound Designer Dwain McMillan and Flying by Foy share in this exhilarating celebration of talent, persistence, and positive energy.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.