Book by Patricia Resnick
Directored/Choreographed by Richard Stafford
Musical Directored by Mark Hartman
Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Beverly) It seems like a dicey proposition: take a 1979 comedy that has long since been forgotten and make it into a 21st century musical. (I don’t see anyone else lining up to do a musical of other comedies that I watched over and over again on HBO as a child, like Mr. Mom or Police Academy. If you’re a producer, call me.) Yet 9 to 5 has Dolly Parton’s mark all over it, from the opening monologue to the final musical note, and Dolly has a way of turning the ridiculous into credible fun. This endeavor of hers is more Dollyworld than Rhinestone.
The action takes place in the offices of a behemoth of a corporation where a pool of secretaries grows fed up with the inherently sexist and rigged game of climbing the corporate ladder in 1979. One day, a trio of the secretaries (Dee Hoty, Holly Davis and Shayla Osborn) gets fed up and goes to get stoned during the work day, detailing fantasies of offing the boss (George Dvorksy) between puffs. The next day, thanks to a mix-up of office supplies and an acute case of post-stoned paranoia, the secretaries fear they accidentally have killed their boss, and things cascade into silliness after that.
The action in this production is that perfect blend of over-the-top silliness and over-the-top earnestness that North Shore Music Theatre does so well. While the trio of female leads all succeed at their roles, special accolades should be reserved for Holly Davis for her role of Judy Bernley, a new divorcee who has forced to confront her own meekness in the cruel work-world. There is pure joy to watching Bernley shed her outer mouse, learn about kinky sex and cast her ex-husband to the curb in one song, and Davis hides her belt-able voice well before setting it to the rafters for one show-stopping tune. Dvorsky also channels sexist movie villain Dabney Coleman so well that I wanted to kill him, and I have rarely seen an actor
so comfortable in his skin when making himself look stupid.
To be sure, a lot of this play is a nostalgic trip back into 1979, a time when we had a president named Jimmy. There is tangible clunkiness to this production’s set and costumes (props to Scenic Designer Philip Whitcomb and Costume Designer Paula Peasley-Ninestein) that reminds one of a time of uncomfortable suits and frustrating typewriters. And scriptwriter Patricia Resnick helps with the flashback
by adding some well-timed in-jokes where the characters realize they are speaking ahead of their time about everything from the Enron scandal to the concept of “24/7”. But there is something universally David and Goliath about this simple tale of a trio of lowly workers who accidentally gets their revenge on a terrible boss and transform a soulless corporation into a good place to work. 9 to 5 is a must-see for
any working stiff.