Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
9 To 5, the musical. Book by Patricia Resnick based on her screenplay with Colin Higgin. Songs by Dolly Parton. Directed by Rand Foerster. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"I'm nobody's fool. . ."
In 1980 the movie "9 to 5" made Dolly Parton into a movie star, exhilarated the careers of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and pushed actor Dabney Coleman into the villain category where he remained. It was a very successful smash-hit comedy which allowed all of its participants to shine. Thirty years later the screenwriter, Patricia Resnick and former star Parton turned the film into a Broadway musical. It was a smash of a different kind, lasting only five months before a two-year national tour and productions in London, summer stock and regional theaters. It provided good roles for six women, used a chorus that could shrink, or swell depending on budget and only needed two men in prominent roles; it made regional and community theater standards easily. Now, in 2022 it is back at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, Massachusetts and is proof positive that a fine production can save mediocre material. The show at the Majestic is much better than the show deserves with talent dripping off the stage with its dated material that still resonates with the recent court cases of abusive men and dominated women who take things into their own hands and rescue themselves and their compatriots from the corporate slavery that has kept women overwhelmed for more than a century.
The show still stars three women: Crystin Gilmore as Violet (Lily Tomlin [film] and Allison Janney [stage]'s role). Mollie Posnik as Judy (Jane Fonda [film] and Stephanie J. Block [stage]'s role) and Kaytlyn Vandeloecht as Doralee (Parton [film] and Megan Hilty [stage]'s role). The three women work very well together and apart, though they are rarely apart in this show. Each one has her solo moments and much as Fonda did in the movie, Posnik comes close to stealing the show away from the others. Her two principal songs, "The Dance of Death" in Act One and "Get Out and Stay Out" in Act Two are virtual show-stoppers (as Judy develops a spine and some nether parts), a gift from Parton.
Crysrin Gilmore's Violet is a hard act to follow. She maintains a definitive tone of discontent throughout the show and when she and the other girls have their "pot" dreams she defines Violet brilliantly as the only mother among the three, but a mother with an edge. It's a wonderful performance of what is the central role among the women.
Crystin Gilmore (New York City), Mollie Posnik ( New York City), Kaytlyn Vandeloecht (Ellington, CT)
Photo: Lee Chambers
Her non-romance with co-worker Joe, played sweetly by Christopher Rojas, takes the entire play to become its own thing and the pay-off is very worthwhile. The smaller roles are also well-developed by the actors cast in this production. The office busy-body and manipulator, Roz, is played by the talented Kait Rankins (Elizabeth Willson in the film) and she more than does comic justice to the role. Margaret, the office alcoholic is played deliciously by Barbara McEwen. Richard Parris Scott has a nice scene as Violet's son Josh. Stuart W. Gamble plays board chairman Tinsworthy with style and flair.
The physical production is cleverly directed by Rand Foerster who also gave ample stagetime to the fine choreography by Stacy Ashley and Steven Sands. Even the set changes are decently constructed by set designer Greg Trochlil and stage manager Stephen Petit. The costumes, reminiscent of the film's costumes were designed by Dawn McKay, and the evocative lighting was designed by Daniel D. Rist. The sound design of the show could stand some improvement, the band often drowning out the soloists.
Mollie Posnik (New York City), Kaytlyn Vandeloecht (Ellington, CT), Crystin Gilmore (New York City), Chris Rojas (South Hadley); Photo: Lee Chambers
The biggst conflict is between Doralee and her boss Franklin Hart, played by Joe Casey. The two actors spar professionally and personally in their roles and the heat is palpable. Vandeloecht as Doralee is delightful and Casey is demonic (watch him in hi song, "Here For You"), seemingly unshakable until the play's final moments when goodness wins the day and Doralee gets her just desserts. Casey's acting is simpl;y terrific in one of the most unsympathetic parts ever written.
This is not a great show but its a perfect afternoon or evening in the theater. There really is something for everyone including those into "M&Ms" as Judy calls the physical torture of the boss (you'll get it when you sees it). The Majestic company delivers fine theater from a less than perfect show.
+ 04/23/2022 +
Joe Casey (New York City) and Kaytlyn Vandeloecht (Ellington, CT);
Photo: Lee Chambers
9 To 5, the Musical plays at the Majestic Theater, 131 Elm Street, West Springfield, MA through May 29. For information and tickets call 413-747-7797, or go to their website www.majestictheater.com