Despite the original Broadway production’s less-than-lukewarm reception from big-city theater critics, the national touring production of “9 to 5” is an amusing mélange of feel-good music, memorable characters and campy ’70s nostalgia.
Based on the 1980 cult movie starring Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda, the musical comedy follows three office gal pals who conspire to hold their chauvinistic boss hostage in order to shatter the company’s glass ceiling and boost company morale. Dee Hoty, Diana DeGarmo and Mamie Parris have been well cast in the lead roles of Violet Newstead, Doralee Rhodes and Judy Bernly.
Hoty effortlessly captures Violet’s wittiness, Type-A ambition and no-nonsense-taking attitude. Fed up with her boss’s repeated sexist remarks, she boldly proclaims, “I am no girl, I am a woman, W-O-M-A-N!” And in a fierce panic, she vents at turbo speed to her office peer and love interest, Joe (Gregg Goodbrod), everything that has happened since the accidental “poisoning” of Mr. Hart.
Former “American Idol” star DeGarmo does justice to Doralee, the buxom, big-haired, Southern-belle beauty who’s not afraid to whip out the pistol in her purse if the situation calls for it. When DeGarmo yodels the country twang of “Backwoods Barbie,” her voice is as comforting and sweet as honey butter melting atop a piece of warm corn bread.
Parris effortlessly portrays Judy’s transformation from a meek pushover to a woman with a presence and a backbone. Parris shows that she means business in her performance of “Get Out and Stay Out,” directing her unfaithful ex-husband, Dick (Wayne Schroder), to leave her be when he tries to win her back.
Sporting a Burt Reynolds-style coif with sideburns and a pinstripe three-piece suit, Joseph Mahowald effectively captures the Neanderthal pig-headedness that is Franklin Hart Jr.
Among the audience favorites during Thursday’s performance were Kristine Zbornik as Roz, Franklin Hart’s frumpy, micromanaging administrative assistant, and Jane Blass as Margaret, the messy-haired, flask-toting office lush.
Well-received musical numbers of the night included the victorious “Shine Like the Sun,” reminiscent of Helen Reddy’s feminist anthem, “I Am Woman,” performed by the three leads; and “One of the Boys,” in which a glamorous Violet soft-shoes across the stage surrounded by a tuxedo-clad, all-male ensemble. The number conjures images of Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in the classic “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
It’s clear why the musical score received Tony Award, Drama Desk and Grammy nominations. Dolly Parton’s diverse composition of country, ’70s pop, down-home blues, jazz and swing-era melodies mesh superbly with her lyrics of substance and sentiment.
Though I enjoyed the clever incorporation of Parton herself as narrator of the show via a giant, round screen suspended from the stage, the overall set design seemed a little cluttered. The combination of overly colorful backdrops, too much office furniture and a distracting ’70s pop icon stage frame sent me into sensory overload.
Ultimately, though, this entertaining show offers a guaranteed good time.
“9 to 5” continues through Sunday at the INB Performing Arts Center. For ticket information, call (800) 325-SEAT.