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Sunday, November 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A rollicking, middle-brow evening

The musical “9 to 5,” now playing at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, is just what you’d expect from a 1970s-era workplace comedy. It’s fun and frothy, good-hearted and sexy.

Based on the hit 1980 movie, and with new music by Dolly Parton, “9 to 5” tells the story of three secretaries – Violet, Judy and Doralee – who wind up kidnapping their boss, a “sexist, egotistical, lying hypocritical bigot,” taking over the company and turning it into the kind of female-friendly workplace women have long dreamed of. Flexible hours! Job sharing! Day care! You get the drift.

As staged by CST, “9 to 5” features three likable leading ladies, all with terrific voices, and an unlikable lecher played with glee by Mark Cotter.

Violet (Vanessa Miller) is the office veteran who has ambitions beyond her secretary desk. Judy (Charissa Bertels) is the newcomer, a woman who has never worked before but is forced to find a job after her husband dumps her. Doralee (Darcy Wright) is the office sexpot, a buxom Texan who, despite her form-fitting attire, is in love with her husband.

Ruling over them with a lecherous sneer is Franklin Hart Jr. (Cotter). His office spy is Roz, a hilarious Callie McKinney Cabe.

Judy is introduced to the office in “Around Here,” which features a nifty dance number involving moving desks. Director Christian Duhamel, who also choreographed the show, shows a sure hand. The dance routines are well paced and well executed.

Cotter’s number, “Here for You,” is a little raunchy as Hart openly lusts after Doralee. Cotter, an accomplished singer and actor who’s been in a dozen CST shows, clearly is having fun playing such a creep. He’s a joy to watch.

Wright has a great time with Doralee, channeling Parton right down to the Southern accent. Her performance of “Backwoods Barbie” – “I’m a backwoods Barbie in a push-up bra and heels // I might look artificial, but where it counts it’s real” – puts her lovely voice on display.

The women, frustrated by Hart, bond over a “mary-ja-wana” joint, with Bertels in particular having a blast letting good-girl Judy go a little wild. Each woman has a little fantasy about getting back at Hart. These fun segments really let the actresses shine. Wright gets to lasso Hart in “Cowgirl’s Revenge.” Miller shines as a Snow White character concocting poison for Hart in “Potion Notion.”

Bertels’ number, “Dance of Death,” evokes a 1940s film noir musical, if there ever was such a thing.

The show drags a bit. The hospital scene, in which the women think Violet accidently poisoned Hart, seems unnecessary.

Act II opens with Violet donning a suit as “One of the Boys,” surrounded by the ensemble. It’s a fun number and sets the stage for a fast-paced second act.

Bertels earned the biggest applause of the night with “Get Out and Stay Out.” Her singing was powerful as Judy shed her mousy persona to become a full-fledged strong woman.

Still, “Let Love Grow,” the love song between Violet and Joe, the junior accountant, also feels like filler, even though the performances by Miller and Kieron Cindric were enjoyable.

A special shout-out goes to Joy Martin, as the office lush Margaret. She displays fine comedic timing and fantastic body language. Her drunken saunter off stage in Act I was fabulous.

“9 to 5” is not rocket science. It’s not Chekov. But it’s fun and lively and an enjoyable night at the theater.

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