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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Aspire Community Theatre brings strife of working ‘9 to 5’ to Kroc Center stage

Allison Knoll, Tricia Petrinovich and Hannah Melton star in Aspire Community Theatre’s production of “9 to 5,” which opens Friday and continues through Feb. 16. (Marlee Andrews / Marlee Andrews)
Allison Knoll, Tricia Petrinovich and Hannah Melton star in Aspire Community Theatre’s production of “9 to 5,” which opens Friday and continues through Feb. 16. (Marlee Andrews / Marlee Andrews)

“Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’/Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’/They just use your mind, and they never give you credit/It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.”

Even if you’ve never seen the 1980 film “9 to 5” starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman, you know the movie’s theme song. Maybe you’ve even sung it to yourself while getting ready for work.

“9 to 5” features Fonda, Tomlin and Parton as Judy Bernly, Violet Newstead and Doralee Rhodes, respectively, three employees of Consolidated Companies who team up to overthrow their sexist, dishonest boss Franklin Hart Jr. (Coleman).

Nearly two decades after the film’s release, the story of “9 to 5” was adapted into a musical of the same name with music and lyrics by Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick, which is based on the screenplay by Resnick and Colin Higgins.

The musical opened on Broadway in April 2009 and closed in September of the same year, earning 15 Drama Desk Award nominations, multiple Tony and Outer Critics Circle awards nominations, two Drama League Award nominations and a Grammy nomination for best musical show album.

The musical has since toured the U.S., the U.K. and Australia and premiered on the West End in 2019.

Aspire Community Theatre’s production of “9 to 5,” which stars Tricia Petrinovich as Newstead, Hannah Melton as Rhodes and Allison Knoll as Bernly, opens at the Salvation Army Kroc Center on Friday and continues through Feb. 16.

The cast also includes Charlie Monte as Hart, Jessica Peterson as Roz Keith, Tre Keough as Joe, Erin Allsup as Missy Hart, William Inman as Russell Tinsworthy and Cathy Allsup as Margaret.

Aspire Community Theatre artistic director Trigger Weddle, who is directing “9 to 5,” remembers seeing the film in theaters and thinking it was hilarious.

She didn’t know much about the musical version when it was released, but since working on the production, she’s come to find the music is fantastic but “surprisingly difficult.”

“It’s got all the stuff that you love, Dolly Parton’s stamp, but then it’s got this very cool Broadway score that people will really enjoy,” she said.

And when Weddle says “stamp,” she means it. When theaters contract “9 to 5,” a tape of Parton’s narration is sent along to be used in the show.

“She’s in our production of ‘9 to 5,’ ” Weddle said. “It’s scripted that way that there’s a voiceover from Dolly Parton. She’s provided it. It’s really her.”

A story that stands the test of time like the one told in “9 to 5” works well onstage, though not without a few challenges, Weddle said.

“It’s always a challenge when they do movies to musicals because we’re so used to how fast film is,” she said. “For our production, that has been a fun challenge, to take a script that was originally a film and be able to move as quickly with a story that everybody knows and go to all the places we need to go on the stage.”

The story stands the test of time largely because of the three women at the center: Bernly is just starting her job at Consolidated Industries (Consolidated Companies in the film), having been forced to find work after her husband leaves her for his much younger secretary.

Newstead, a widowed mother of four, has been at the company for 12 years and even trained Hart but is overlooked for promotions. Rhodes is the company secretary who is looked down upon by other employees because of the rumor, which Hart started, that she is sleeping with the boss.

During casting, it soon became obvious to Weddle that Petrinovich, Melton and Knoll were perfect for the roles.

Petrinovich has an MBA and runs multiple businesses; Knoll, a high school theater teacher, is a nurturer by nature; and Melton has a “very lilty, sweet, Dolly-ism going in her work.”

For the role of Hart, Weddle and Monte have worked to make sure their portrayal of the boss leaves no room for redemptive qualities.

“It doesn’t really work if he’s not that character,” Weddle said. “It can’t be this redemptive moment for him. That’s not what the story’s about, and it wouldn’t work if you tried to do that.”

With a current culture in which so many women are speaking out and moving up, the timeliness of “9 to 5” was a happy accident for Weddle.

She was partially drawn to “9 to 5” because Aspire Community Theatre has produced many musicals that began as films, including “Catch Me If You Can” and “Young Frankenstein.”

Weddle’s also always on the lookout for productions that will help showcase the talented women of North Idaho and Spokane, and “9 to 5” definitely filled the bill.

“But it is a bonus that the plot is so timely with what’s going on in the world,” she said.

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