Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty and Allison Janney plot their boss's demise in 9 to 5.
BOTTOM LINE: Check your theatre pretension at the door.
Dolly Parton's sassy new musical, 9 to 5 (based on the 1980 movie of the same name), is about three ballsy ladies sticking it to their chauvinistic boss, Mr. Hart. Parton starred in the movie as Doralee, the big-boobed Texan with a brain. The other two women, Violet and Judy, were played by Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, respectively. Though not a particularly challenging story, 9 to 5 is an uplifting tale of girl-power and ultimately women's rights. And due to its cheery, happy-ending nature, it translates pretty effectively to the stage.
For what it's worth, 9 to 5 is an enjoyable musical theatre experience. Directed by the Joe Mantello (Wicked, Assassins) and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights, The Wiz at Encores!), the show is as schnazzy as you would expect from a theatre extravaganza with Parton at the helm. It delivers glitzy Broadway pizazz and still maintains that down-home, inside-jokey, fun-loving spirit that Parton is all about.
The three leading ladies, Allison Janney as Violet, Megan Hilty as Doralee and Stephanie J. Block as Judy, are all incredible performers perfectly suited to be playing these roles. Janney gets the humor in Violet, and Hilty and Block have Broadway-diva voices. They certainly make a solid threesome. Marc Kudish as Mr. Hart is also well-cast; he is a despicable caricature whom the audience loves to hate.
9 to 5 has been relatively snubbed by the theatre community since it opened in the spring. Both in reviews and at the Tony Awards, this show hasn't received much positive attention considering it's a big, expensive production with big, impressive names attached. It has, however, received a great audience response and when I saw the show on a Tuesday, the house was packed and the audience was having a blast. 9 to 5 is very silly, pretty low-brow, and certainly not a theatrical challenge...but that doesn't mean it's not a good time. Despite feeling underdeveloped and overproduced, 9 to 5 delivers an entertaining evening for any audience member looking for an uplifting night out. And sometimes that's all you need. I can easily put on my critic pants and tell you everything that I feel is wrong with 9 to 5, but it feels unnecessary to go there with this show.
Parton's music and lyrics are exuberantly sincere and the score itself is pretty decent on the whole. "9 to 5," the title track from the movie, is also the opening number in the musical and plays throughout the production between scenes. And 9 to 5 is all about the music. Sure, it's musical theatre, but this show provides a consistent barrage of production numbers, power ballad solos and hamonic trios. And the entire cast is talented, capable and fun to watch.
9 to 5 is a giddy theatrical spectacular and great escapist entertainment. It's a good pick for out-of-towners who want to experience Broadway but aren't theatrically inclined. Anyone with a penchant for classical theatre or anyone who watches theatre with an analytic eye should be warned that this show is a fun romp and not much more. You won't enjoy yourself if you give it too much thought. But if you're looking for an upbeat evening out, 9 to 5 is worth experiencing.
(9 to 5 plays at the Marriot Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets. Performances are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday at 2pm and 8pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $75-$125 and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or by calling 1800.982.2787. Win tickets for $36 by entering the lottery held at the 9 to 5 box office. Click here for lottery info. Visit 9to5themusical.com for more show info.)