THEATER REVIEW: ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ at Porthouse Theatre by Roy Berko

 

Through Sat 7/1

9 to 5 The Musical is based on the 1980 comedy film which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. After the success of the movie, which is credited with being the 20th highest grossing comedy film, Parton decided to add music and put the story on stage. The Broadway production was not a smash success, running less than 150 performances. After a touring production (which starred Lakewood’s Dee Hoyt), the script is now being performed in the summer and community theater circuit.

The story line, with a strong women’s rights underbelly, concerns workers at Consolidated Industries who toil for the chauvinistic, egomaniacal Franklin Hart, Jr. Three of the put-upon women are Violet (who has been passed over many times for management positions because she is a woman), Judy (a new employee with no office experience whose husband ran off with a much younger woman) and Doralee (a sexy married woman, who is the office outcast as the other women assume she is Mr. Hart’s mistress). Then there is Roz, who, with her hair in a school-marmish bun, owlish glasses and frumpy clothing, perceives she is having a romance with her misogynistic boss.

Violet accidentally puts rat poison in Hart’s coffee. Hart doesn’t drink the coffee, but finds out what happened, threatens to call the police, the trio captures, kidnaps, and imprisons him in his own house, which has a sling attachment connected to the ceiling. While Hart is “away,” Violet takes over the leadership of the company, and much to the delight of the workers, relaxes lots of the rules. With the help of a member of the accounting office she uncovers Hart has been stealing company money.

Of course, as happens in overblown musical farces, all comes out well in the end, and the company and the audience celebrate with a resounding performance-closing version of “9 to 5.”

The Porthouse production, under the sprightly direction of Terri Kent, is a nice escapist show for the theater’s target audience. It’s filled with lots of dancing (well-conceived by Kelly Meneer), fine singing and music (kudos to Jennifer Korecki) and is nicely paced.

Amy Fritsche delights as she creates Violet with the right amount of smartness, competence and sparkle. Her upbeat “Around Here” set a nice tone for showcasing her character. “One of the Boys,” complete with “jazz hands,” gleefully sounded and looked like it was right out of Bob Fosse’s staging of Chicago.

Erin Diroll avoids making Doralee into a Dolly Parton clone and sings and sasses, making the character her own. Her “Backwoods Barbie” was well performed. Courtney Elizabeth Brown transitioned from mouse to powerhouse with ease. Her heartfelt rendition of “Get Out and Stay Out” brought down the house. Fabio Polanco was correctly smarmy as Mr. Hart. He played the chauvinistic cad with overdone farcical glee. Sandra Emerick (Roz) did what Emerick does so well — created an over the top, beyond-belief character. Her rendition of “Heart to Hart” stopped the show! The rest of the strong cast danced and sang with enthusiasm and polish.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: 9 to 5, which opened Porthouse Theatre’s 49th season, has neither a great script nor a wonderful score, but nevertheless, it’s an audience pleaser. The sold-out opening night audience was on its feet at the end, screaming and clapping their delight proving once again that artistic director Terri Kent knows her intended audience.

 9 to 5 runs through Sat 7/1. For tickets call 330-672-3884 or go online to porthousetheatre.com.

[Written by Roy Berko, member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]

 

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