Story: Middle-aged Judy is forced back into the workplace when her husband squanders their savings and runs off with his teen-aged secretary. Judy is hired by the mammoth Consolidated Companies and dumped into the lap of Violet, the senior office supervisor.
That’s actually good, since Violet knows the company inside and out. What’s bad is that being a woman, Violet is virtually ignored in this early 1980s work environment, as are all the other women. That includes perky young Doralee, whose substantial physical attributes are a constant irritant to her female colleagues and the unfair reason that they shun her.
Doralee’s ample figure also brings out the perpetual lust in Franklin Hart Jr., the office boss who regularly hits on the pretty ladies in his employ. That includes secretary Doralee, with whom Hart has bragged about an affair that hasn’t happened.
When Violet, Doralee and Judy, fed up with Hart's attitude and behavior, stumble upon an opportunity, they kidnap him and take over the office, leaving Hart tied up in his house while his wife is away on a trip. Suddenly, their branch office is more productive than ever, catching the attention of the distant CEO who wants to observe this marvel first-hand.
Highlights: Dolly Parton’s light touch with musical composition is at the center of this frothy little musical that’s based on the hit 1980 movie that starred Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman. The musical version, with book by Patricia Resnick and music and lyrics by Parton, had modest success when it opened on Broadway in 2009.
Under the careful guidance of director Brad Schwartz, Kirkwood Theatre Guild is presenting an earnest if not entirely rousing version of the musical to end its 2013-14 season. The fact that its best performers, though, happen to be the three leading ladies makes this rendition a pleasant experience.
Other Info: Linda Ryan, Natasha Toro and Stephanie Merritt all bring specific strengths to their interpretations of Violet, Doralee and Judy, respectively. Ryan is considerably talented, whether singing, dancing or acting. She’s fully invested in Violet’s character and knows her away around a comic line or a serious one with equal aplomb.
Her voice is solid as well, especially on the rocking number, Around Here, that is one of the two best songs in the score (the opening title tune is the other), when she’s introducing Judy to the fast-paced work day at Consolidated.
Toro brings feistiness and zest to the role of Doralee, playing up the character’s Texas twang and spunky personality to the hilt, and also demonstrating a decent voice. Probably the best singer, though, is Merritt, who has a beautifully clear way with a tune that as Judy she uses to great advantage on several numbers.
Others in the cast include Ann Hier, who shines in her broad comic role as the office snitch Roz, a conniving woman who inexplicably harbors a crush on the lecherous Hart, and Kent Coffel, who does everything but twist his mustache as the leering, unrepentant and villainous boss.
Preston Murchison plays Violet’s wannabe love interest, office accountant Joe. Janet Seitz Wheatley is Hart’s unsuspecting wife Missy, Mara Bollini is an underling unfairly fired for asking questions the company won't answer, Pat Klick is Judy’s oafish husband Dick and James Kuhlman is Doralee’s supportive mate Dwayne.
The choreography contributed by Jack Sipple and Julie Weitzel gets perfunctory results from the enthusiastic if not equally talented members of the expanded troupe. Ken Clark’s set design is offset by two pairs of large clocks at either end and a Laugh-In style wall of panels in the back. Lori Rena contributes the large-haired wig and hair design, John ‘JT’ Taylor adds lights and Deanna Garcia furnishes the sound.
Musical director Allen Schwamb gets mixed results from his combo, which features pianist Sue Goldford, guitarists Aaron Doerr and Ethan Collector, drummer Clancy Newell, David Hall on bass, trumpeter Joe Paule Sr., Rebecca Parisi on reeds and trombonist Michael Dunsmoore.
Schwartz and assistant director Shug Goodlow cleverly keep the show moving along by interspersing bits of TV and movie trivia delivered by members of the cast while scenes are being changed. The production’s musical numbers work best on the upbeat and lively tunes, such as the initial two offerings, but drags whenever too many syrupy ballads get in the way of the fun.
Kirkwood Theatre Guild traditionally ends each season with a musical. Its rendition of 9 to 5 is far from its best work, such as Anything Goes or the Schwartz-directed City of Angels. Still, the cast has fun and the audience seems to, also. Thus, mission accomplished.
Musical: 9 to 5, the Musical
Group: Kirkwood Theatre Guild
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
Dates: May 8, 9, 10, 11
Tickets: $22; contact 821-9956 or email@example.com
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb