9 to 5 is based on the 1980 movie of the same name, with Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton, and Book by Patricia Resnick. Parton not only was one of the stars of the movie (her costars were Jane Fonda and Lili Tomlin), but her song “9 to 5” became a huge hit. It’s still is an anthem for working women, and men, everywhere.
In 2008 Parton wrote several more songs and turned this story into a Broadway show. The book revolves around three women office workers: Violet, the savvy female who really runs the company but never gets the pay or promotions because she is female; Judy, newly divorced after a 16-year marriage and facing her first job; and Doralee, the voluptuous southern girl who the boss is trying to bed – even though they both are married.
The three women who play these roles are certainly up to the task. Robyn Bloom has the most powerful voice of the three. (Those who attend Silhouette Stages regularly will remember her strong performance as Nancy in Oliver!) As Violet, she shows her character’s ‘smarts’ while still showing that women often have to sublimate themselves in the workplace. Although she is the mother of almost full-grown children and a widow, her boss, Franklin Hart, Jr., still calls her a “girl.” Bloom truly blossoms in her number, “One of the Boys.” She shows her versatility not only as a singer – but also as an excellent tap dancer.
Lucy Bobbin (Doralee) has a voice that has the country charm we associate with Dolly Parton. She plays the bombshell who is really a good girl at heart very believably. Robbin’s best number is “Backwoods Barbie” where she explains her character to the audience.
Caitlin Grant plays Judy, and has a superb musical theatre voice. She plays her character a little more frumpy than Jane Fonda did in the film. Her most moving and revealing number is “Get Out and Stay Out,” when she stands up to her loutish ex-husband.
In addition to these three talented actresses, there is a fine supporting cast. Richard Greenslit is a smarmy Hart, and gets you to hate him as he chases Doralee around the office during “Here for You.”
The show stealer is Maribeth Vogel as Roz Keith, the frustrated older office manager, secretly in love with Hart. Her scene and musical number, “Heart to Hart” was just hilarious.
Nathan Moe does well as Joe – the slightly younger pursuer of Violet. They get the only ballad of the show, “Let Love Grow,”and have real chemistry and spark together.
The rest of the talented ensemble includes Angie Townsend (very funny as the inebriated Margaret Pomerance), Justin Moe, Neal Townsend, Douglas A. Thomas, Constance Lewis, Beth Cohen, Rachel Leann Kemp, Renata Hammond, Jen Retterer, Lisa Rigsby, Mary Guay Kramer, Tracy McCracken, Ellen Welsh Quinn, and Rebecca Unkenholz.
The orchestra, conducted by Tania Rosa Bindhoff, does a superb job backing up the actors. The choreography by Tina DeSimone is energetic and fun to watch. The costumes by Tommy Malek are reflective of the time.
Kevin James Logan does a fine job directing this fairly large cast. His concept in Violet’s Living Room depicting the fantasies of the three women while stoned on pot – was well-directed, allowing us to follow the action easily.
Along with the strong performances and the fun musical score by Parton, the reason this musical still works is that women have come far but still face great obstacles in the workforce from disparate pay with men in equal jobs, to sexual harassment, and to trying to break into old ‘boys clubs.’ Even in the arts, there are now more women directors and technical designers, but they are still greatly outnumbered. This musical reminds us not only how far we have come but how much further we have to go.
For some great singing and dancing, as well as lots of laughs, work you way over to Slayton House to see Silhouette Players’ 9 to 5.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with an intermission.
9 to 5 plays through October 25, 2015 at Silhouette Stages performing at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.