On Stage: ‘9 to 5: The Musical,’ What a way to make a living

Far right; Raena Parsons

The title tune is altogether so familiar that it might as well be a cultural icon, like shag carpet or Twinkies.

But, if you think you know the story of “9 to 5” because once upon a time you saw the movie, well, think again, you’re in for a surprise. Unless, that is, you’ve already seen the Broadway musical production of the same name. If so, well, then you’re in for an uproarious reunion.

Buckle in and be prepared to be transported back into the corporate workplace of the 1970s (typewriters, inter-office intercom and all), as Director Margaret Hall (Into the Woods, Hello, Dolly!) and a merry band of island actors present the four-time Tony Award nominated production of “9 to 5: The Musical.”

BrandingThe production opens Friday, May 15, at San Juan Community Theatre, with 10 scheduled performances over the course of a three-week run.

It’s bound to tickle your funny bone.

“I love the songs, love the story, love the characters… what isn’t there to love?” Hall said of the choice for the theatre spring show.

Times have indeed changed since Jane Fonda pulled together all the pieces that would wind up as a 1980 Hollywood blockbuster, a comedic portrayal starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman and Fonda, which sets out to lampoon the pervasive sexist and chauvinistic workplace culture of that era. Fonda opted for a comedy rather than the dramatic production that she had originally intended, expecting that a little humor would broaden the story’s appeal.

The message came across loud and clear. The film generated $3.9 million in its opening week in the U.S. and stands as the 20th highest-grossing comedy film ever. It ranks No. 74 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Funniest Movies” and propelled Parton, who wrote the title track, into the mainstream of American pop culture.

Parton went on to write more than a half-dozen new songs for the stage production, which debuted on Broadway in 2009. While the topics of gender and abuse of authority are satirized in the spotlight, Hall notes the story delivers a universal message as well.piano

“Those of us who were working at that time really did experience such circumstances,” Hall recalls. “In a very humorous way the story sends a message of the importance of taking control of your own life.”

Taking charge of the lead roles are a troupe of relative newcomers to the community theatre stage: Amy Hull as Violet Hall (Tomlin), Alicia Gislason as Doralee Rhodes (Parton), Raena Parsons as Judy Bernly (Fonda) join SJCT veteran Bo Turnage as Franklin Hart, Jr. (Coleman). Along with a cast of nearly 30, the leads will perform as many as 16 songs, including that familiar title song.

“There’s a number of people in the cast who we haven’t seen on our stage before,” Hall noted. “It’s really great to work with so much new talent and great talent.”

With a host of scene changes over the course of the two-act play, the production demands a great deal of technical support, Hall said, as well as a top-notch choreographer (Lisa Duke) and an ensemble of well-seasoned musicians (led by Jim 1st dayCollado) to provide the musical’s melodic foundation.

While the workplace of the 1970s may be long gone, the tug-of-war between the sexes, whether at work or elsewhere, lives on. What better way to explore that never-ending ballad than with a musical?

For detailed performance schedule, more about the production or to order tickets online, visit www.sjctheatre.org


At a glance:

What: “9 to 5: The Musical

When: May 15-17, May 21-24, May 28-30

Where: San Juan Community Theatre

Admission: $22 adults, $11 students, $5 student RUSH; purchase tickets online, www.sjctheatre.org, or at SJCT box office