It can be hard sometimes for a musical adapted from a well-loved movie to meet expectations. Prince William Little Theater’s production of 9 to 5: The Musical was a fantastic and energy-filled production with wonderful music and lots of fun, positively blowing all expectations out of the water.
The premise is deceptively simple: Violet Newstead (Jolene Vettese), Doralee Rhodes (Laura Mills), and Judy Bernly (Christine Laird) work in an office together and their chauvinistic boss, Franklin Hart, Jr (Joey Olson) finally goes too far. They kidnap him and secretly take over the office, making much-needed policy changes.
Melissa Jo York-Tilley (director) heightened the already funny script by making sure everyone onstage, ensemble included, was adding to the hilarity. The result was a wonderful night of theater that I will remember for years to come.
The set design (Nicholas Mastralengo and James Maxted) had fun details throughout that really evoked a sense of a 1980s office space. It was specifically enjoyable to watch the ensemble moving the multiple set pieces into place in character and in full costume.
The dance numbers were choreographed (Melanie Marie McGuin) to complement the dance abilities of the actors. Large numbers included very synchronized choreography with an emphasis on physicality and acting rather than technically advanced footwork. The featured dancers (Alex Tyree, Caroline Scarborough, and Aaron Talley) showcased harder technique exceptionally well and added depth to the overall production.
The music (James Maxted) was very good. The pit orchestra was above the playing area and partly obscured, which helped with keeping the band volume in balance with the singing.
Jolene Vettese’s portrayal of Violet Newstead was soft and kind, with a few moments of steely resolve. She was best in her song “One of the Boys” where she commanded the stage while singing and tap-dancing.
Christine Laird as the mousy, timid Judy Bernly was perfectly cast. She expertly handled the transition from shy and insecure to fully confident and self-reliant.
Laura Mills took on the role Dolly Parton originated, Doralee Rhodes, and knocked it out of the park. She had great timing and line delivery, all while using a flawless southern accent (with help from dialect coach Ivy Cole).
Franklin Hart, Jr (Joey Olson) was realistically sleazy. Olson used disgustingly good physicality as he fantasized about seducing Doralee.
The highlight of the night was Roz Keith (Melanie McCleery). McCleery came out before the musical with a brief series of announcements, in character, and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Her portrayal of Hart’s second-in-command was amazing from her first scene, but her work on “Heart to Hart” was the best musical number I have seen in any community theater production, ever. She was completely invested in her character and interacted with the audience seamlessly and with great effect. Her emotions were clear, her singing was stellar, and her characterization added a different sort of levity to the production.
I really wish that there were more performances of this musical. Everyone did a wonderful job and I would have loved to see it again.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
9 to 5: The Musical played October 12-21 at Prince William Little Theatre, performing at the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Gregory Family Theater at George Mason University’s Prince William Campus, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA. For tickets and information for future PWLT productions, go online.