Sunday, May 10, 2009

9 to 5: The Musical

SO MUCH FUN!!! Every element of this Broadway musical version of the 1980 film “9 to 5” is top notch -- the acting/singing, the choreography, songs, book, sets, costumes, direction. It is a shimmering, glimmering tribute to Broadway at its best.

9 to 5: The Musical, directed by Joe Mantello, received a record 15 Drama Desk nominations, making me wonder if it would live up to all of that expectation. As it turns out, I loved it from start to finish. I want to go back!

Everyone in the cast is fully committed, and all have impeccable timing. Allison Janney, as overworked and underpaid office manager Violet Newstead (the Lily Tomlin movie role), is dynamite, especially in her “One of the Boys” number, when in a sleek white pants suit and backed by a chorus of men in suits, she struts her stuff and makes it clear that she’s ready and able to take over.

Megan Hilty is a riot as Doralee Rhodes (the Dolly Parton role), a self-described “backwoods Barbie,” and Stephanie J. Block is great as the timid, clueless Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda).

Right from the upbeat opening number, “9 to 5,” the show is pulsing with energy and fun. Alarms start going off and a variety of different types of people grudgingly prepare for their workday. “Tumble outta bed / And stumble to the kitchen / Pour myself a cup of ambition,” those familiar words and that jaunty tune from the Grammy Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated and No. 1 Billboard title song from the film set the pace for the joyful theatrical experience about to unfold.

As in the film, Violet, Doralee and Judy are downtrodden secretaries in 1979 -- "just a step on the boss man's ladder" -- who plot their revenge on that ogre, Franklin Hart, Jr., beautifully played by Marc Kudisch (the Dabney Coleman character). Kudisch was born to do musical comedy. It’s a really physical part and he is right-on every time.

Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler keeps everyone on their marks, whether pumping up the rhythms of the office or staging big splashy dance sequences. He’s great at blending one number seamlessly into the next, such as in the hilarious scene with the three women getting stoned and fantasizing about how they’d love to get the best of Mr. Hart.

The 15 new songs (words and lyrics) by Dolly Parton, making her Broadway song writing debut, are upbeat and often have a nice country twang. They’re also rousing in the way of Legally Blonde’s songs, with the message for the oppressed to stand up and fight -- “Nothing’s going to change if you don’t change it.”

Patricia Resnick, who was responsible for the original story and screenplay, wrote the book, which moves the story along quickly and with much humor.

Supporting all of this bright spirit are the colorful sets by Scott Pask, costumes by William Ivey Long and lighting by Jules Fisher and Kenneth Posner.

The 30-member cast also features Kathy Fitzgerald -- a hoot as Mr. Hart’s devoted executive secretary -- Andy Karl, Ioana Alfonso, Timothy George Anderson, Jennifer Balagna, Justin Bohon, Paul Castree, Daniel Cooney, Jeremy Davis, Gaelen Gilliland, Autumn Guzzardi, Ann Harada, Neil Haskell, Lisa Howard, Van Hughes, Michael X. Martin, Michael Mindlin, Karen Murphy, Mark Myars (dance captain), Justin Patterson, Jessica Lea Patty, Charlie Pollock, Tory Ross, Wayne Schroder, Maia Nkenge Wilson and Brandi Wooten.

I predict a healthy run for 9 to 5, which is at the Marriott Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets. Tickets are available through (212) 307-4100 or at the box office. For more information visit

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