San Diego Theater Review: 9 TO 5 (San Diego Musical Theatre at Spreckels Theatre)

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by Milo Shapiro on February 12, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


In 1980, an unlikely film trio, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton, was the center of 9 to 5, an amusing feminist romp with lovable characters. Years later, Patricia Resnick took the screen play she co-authored and created the book for the stage version, featuring  new music by Parton, who created about 15 original numbers and reworked the title song that went to Billboard’s #1 spot in 1981.

Does the reworking succeed? The 2008 version that debuted in Los Angeles before hitting Broadway in 2009 received mixed reviews and closed only four months later. The incarnation currently staged by San Diego Musical Theatre, however, is the 2013 reworked version. Whatever may have troubled its Broadway run, SDMT’s show at the Spreckles felt fresh, funny, and satisfying overall.

9 to 5 follows the tales of Violet (Joy Yandell), Judy (Allison Spratt Pearce), and Doralee (Karyn Overstreet), who make the best out of their demeaning jobs as women in the workplace. Fortunately, Resnick keeps them in 1979 rather than finding ways to modernize the roles, because the period fashions, references, and gender roles suit the show well. Violet is a sharp-minded, low-level office manager with little chance of promotion as a woman. Doralee is a sweet, fish-out-of-water country girl doing her best in the big city. We meet the three on Judy’s first day on the job, an intimidating but necessary step after her husband abandons her.

The bane of their existence is the big boss, Franklin Hart (David S. Humphrey), who sexually harasses Doralee, intimidates Judy, and undermines Violet’s career moves. As the three ladies bond and an accident leads to problems, the delightful chaos that defines this show begins.

Overstreet could be taken for a relative of Parton’s, beautifully capturing the feeling and vocals of the role Dolly defined. Rather than try to find her own interpretation, she gives us a terrific tribute to great effect. By the end of Act I, the music seems to be favoring Doralee’s role, as she is the only lead to have a solo song (“Backwoods Barbie”). Act II, however, gives Violet the triumphant “One of the Boys”, and Judy the empowered “Get Out and Stay Out”. Humphrey is deliciously nasty throughout as the lascivious, narcissistic boss–though his song “Here For You” runs long.

Getting some of the biggest cheers is Candi Milo as Roz, the boss’s frumpy and cutthroat flunky. Her role is the most different from the movie in that she’s given the additional quality of being desperately sexually attracted to Hart. Milo works this to the max, letting her lust loose in “Heart to Hart”, and her tenderness show in the reversal song “5 to 9”, during where she laments that her non-working hours bring her so much less pleasure than the office does.

Earlier productions during SDMT’s 10-year span were uneven with occasional standouts. In the last couple of years, however, the quality has been decidedly higher and worthy of the big Spreckels stage. The enjoyable 9 to 5 is yet another feather in their cap, showing them once again to be a company worthy of recognition.

photos by Ken Jacques

9 to 5
San Diego Musical Theatre
Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway
Thurs at 7:30; Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends February 26, 2017
for tickets, call 858.560.5740 or visit SDMT

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