IF YOU GO
What: Musical based on the 1980 film, with new songs by Dolly Parton
When: Wednesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinées through Nov. 17.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $35 to $55
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
All hail Dolly Parton, she of the blond hair and booming bustling. The Backwoods Barbie spun a catchy ode to "barely gettin by" into a feature film, a TV series & then a Broadway musical. Now, Broadway Palm scores with a bouncy, fun-filled romp of a show in their production of "9 to 5: The Musical."
While rollicking, the show isn't always relevant. The material - hard-working women struggling to break the glass ceiling - feels out of place. What was ground-breaking at the cinema in 1980 seems like an express elevator to Human Resources and a sensitivity seminar today.
Despite Parton's gift for music and a flair for theatricality, the show itself feels slightly trapped by a simple plot and modest ambitions. The major issue? Parton's soaring tunes (she wrote the show's music and lyrics) don't lend themselves to musical theatre. Bold showstoppers that showcase a voice? Surely. Something choreographers can work with? Not really. Anything particularly memorable? Not so much.
Director/choreographer Amy Marie McCleary's biggest accomplishments may be how she effortlessly whips this soufflé of a show into an appealing, delectable confection. While the script aims for campy but comes up short on humor, McCleary's vision feels more unified and moves with more purpose than 2010's glossy but bloated national tour.
McCleary gets the joke here. She encourages her actors to take the 1979 (yikes!) references that dot the script and play them completely for laughs. Sanka? That's a giggle. Typewriters with correcting tape? Breathless hooting. Let's not even talk about that "mary-juu-wanna" stuff that all the teenage boys were smoking back in the summer of '79.
Much of the cast reunites after one tour of duty at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster, Pa.; the chemistry shows. Erin Romero (Violet), Zoe Kassay (Doralee) and Amanda Kuchinski (Judy) make an appealing trio of feminist trail-blazers. Giggles, grins and gaiety fill the stage whenever the ladies tangle with their mean-spirited boss or indulge in pot-fueled revenge fantasies. Parton's songs offer each of them a clear spotlight moment; all seize it.
Galloway Stevens looks to be having a blast as "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" Franklin Hart, Jr. He lightens the character, giving Hart a bunga-bunga '70s sitcom vibe instead of the vaguely sleazy porn attitude tried in the 2010 national tour. You can (almost) sympathize with his Hart as a leering idiot, but at least not an evil one. "Here for You," as he ogles the darling (and oblivious) Doralee, brings gales of laughter. The amazing Annie Freres (seriously, she steals the show) delights as lovelorn sycophant secretary Roz, moaning, groaning, grinding and crying for her man in "Heart to Hart."
Parton's tunes do neutralize one of McCleary's strengths; while the vocals thrill, the choreography never truly impresses. Even turning "One of the Boys" into a Fosse-esque tribute seems a brilliant idea, but the number just doesn't catch fire. Mostly though, the songs themselves feel more appropriate for a big-voiced belter than a band of dancers.
James Wolk's ultra-bright set lights up with enough layers of fluorescents to guide in a jetliner. John P. White captures the feel of the '70s in the chic clothes without subjecting us to either polyester leisure suits or awful prints. Wait for the amusing drug-fueled sequences with a triple set of howlingly funny costumes that range from cowgirl to Disney princess. And Amy, I almost choked I was laughing so hard at that stuffed Bambi on a stick! (Don't do drugs kids!)
Is "9 to 5: The Musical" the greatest thing you're going to see inside a theater? Maybe not? Will it make you laugh? Definitely. Will it make you cheer? Certainly. And will it make you want to "tumble outta bed, stumble to the kitchen and pour yourself a cup of ambition?" Heck yeah! Check out the trio of winning leads, a leering, loutish (and loving it) Galloway Stevens and a fun, funky Seventies set. Don't forget the Sanka!
Fun fact: orange handles mean decaf coffee; this descended from Sanka. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Email me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.