Union Tribune Review: SDMT’s ‘9 to 5’ Celebrates Girl Power – By Pam Kragen

 In Reviews

The film “9 to 5” came out in 1980, and its musical adaptation arrived in 2008, but the women’s empowerment comedy is definitely having its day in 2017.

Just weeks after millions of women around the world marched for their rights, San Diego Musical Theatre opened its 2017 season Saturday with the funky, fun and surprisingly ribald “9 to 5: The Musical.” Dozens of women, and some supportive men, in the Spreckels Theatre audience, cheered at lines in Patricia Resnick’s script about equal pay, breaking the glass ceiling, ditching skirts and choosing career over marriage and family.

Dolly Parton wrote the show’s Oscar-winning title song, as well as 17 more numbers added for the musical adaptation. The score isn’t particularly memorable, but it gives each of the show’s three female stars at least one barn-burning solo number.

Directed by Cynthia Ferrer, the show moves like a fast-hurtling freight train, with large, energetic ensemble dance numbers choreographed by Tamilyn Shusterman and underscored by musical director Don LeMaster’s orchestra.

But what stands out about “9 to 5” is its irreverent humor, which arrives unexpectedly in the show’s opening seconds, as the 1979-era office workers rise from bed (one in, shall we say, a state of excitement) to dress for a day of “working 9 to 5.”

Anyone over 50 probably remembers the film starring Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman. The musical is mostly faithful to the original story about three downtrodden secretaries who kidnap their male chauvinist boss and implement progressive office policies in his absence. But some fresh, topical and often R-rated humor has been added, as well as an amusing epilogue.

The highlights of the show are the warm and colorful performances of its the five lead actors. Joy Yandell is an absolute knockout as Violet, the widowed secretary pool chief continuously overlooked for promotion. Her “One of the Boys” breakout number is the best in the show. 

Karyn Overstreet takes on the Dolly Parton role of harassed secretary Doralee, complete with blonde curly hair and “Double D” bustline. Her big number is “Backwoods Barbie,” a touching, clearly autobiographical Parton song about seeing past her sexy looks to the good girl inside.

Allison Spratt Pearce plays Judy, the divorced housewife who comes into her own as a working woman. Pearce starts out quiet and mousy, then explodes on her ex-husband in the second act with the big finish “Get Out and Stay Out.”

David S. Humphrey, who usually plays traditional leading man roles, shows off his long-hidden comic chops as the mustachioed Mr. Hart, their skirt-chasing, embezzling boss. And Candi Milo is surprisingly hilarious as sex-starved office manager Roz, whose role has been beefed up (and made much funnier) in the musical.

The show’s rented costumes, coordinated by Janet Pitcher, are a nostalgic nod to the brown plaids, wide ties and Peter Pan collars of the past. The wigs and attitudes were equally adjusted for the 1970s milieu.

Although it’s a comedy, and often a very funny one, “9 to 5” is truth-telling in its examination of the struggles women faced in the 1970s corporate world. Some things have improved sharply for women, but many struggles (including equal pay) remain. So it’s not surprising that Saturday’s audience was filled with women roaring their approval for the sisterhood embraced onstage. No doubt, this musical will be a hit with the “girls night out” crowd over the next few weeks.

“9 to 5: The Musical”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 26.

Where: San Diego Musical Theatre at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown.

Tickets: $32-$72

Phone: (858) 560-5740

Online: sdmt.org


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