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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

9 to 5 is Feel Good fun at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Also see David's reviews of All My Sons and Of Mice and Men

9 to 5

Though tepidly reviewed and shuttered early in its Broadway incarnation, a substantially re-staged 9 to 5 has proven a crowd pleaser in its national tour, and from the smiling faces and laughter at the 5th Avenue's opening night, Seattle is happy to have it here for a spell.

The tour, jauntily directed and exuberantly choreographed by the talented Jeff Calhoun, also has none other than Miss Dolly Parton (who wrote all the songs, including her signature title song from the '70s film) herself onstage. On video, it must be admitted, but her presence is welcome, as she opens the show with a hearty welcome/scene setter and closes with a post-script recap of the characters' ultimate fates. Patricia Resnick's book hews closely to the original film plotline, with some knowing winks at how far office culture, office machinery, and treatment of women in the workplace have come since the film was a box-office bonanza, even spawning a now all but forgotten TV spin-off.

9 to 5 is set primarily in the confining confines of Consolidated Industries, where the male executives are mostly chauvinist pigs (led by chief porker/villain Franklin Hart, Jr., played by Joseph Mahowald) and the women are seldom able to become more than glorified secretaries. Violet (Dee Hoty) is the office veteran, widowed with a teen son and frustrated by her inability to rise higher at Consolidated; Doralee (Diana DeGarmo) is the busty blonde Texas bombshell whose looks and down-home charm have her office mates convinced she is bedding her boss Hart (that and Hart's own boasts that she indeed is); and office newbie and recent divorcee Judy (Mamie Parris) who is facing the workplace for the first time. The three gals soon become pals, always under the watchful eye of Roz (Kristine Zbornik), Hart's toadying underling who has a barely concealed yen for him. After Violet Doralee, and Judy have a wild night of "Maui-wowee" marijuana and fantasizing over Hart's demise, Violet accidentally spikes Hart's coffee with rat poison, and the girls are afraid he has died. That not being the case, and with Hart's threat of repercussions looming, the trio manage to confine him within his own home, and set to work remaking Consolidated into a more convivial work-place. Hart eventually breaks out but the story climaxes in a happily ever after fashion, and the omnipotent image of Parton peers down as the curtain falls.

Parris, DeGarmo and Hoty are all happily up to the challenge of filling the heels of Jane Fonda, Parton, and Lily Tomlin. Parris' Judy goes convincingly from cowed to empowered, and her delivery of the show's penultimate number "Get Out and Stay Out" is solid gold. DeGarmo has been groomed to be as Dolly-centric as possible, and her sincerely flattering and beguiling Doralee comes across well. The "American Idol" finalist has the pipes to put across tunes like "Backwoods Barbie" with ease, but her diction leaves something to be desired. Hoty shows she still has every ounce of the leading lady charisma that has made her a Broadway regular since her breakout roles as Mrs. Will Rogers in The Will Rogers Follies, and she sets the scene strongly in her establishing number "Around Here," then tackles a sassy leading lady and the chorus boys' second-act opener "One of the Boys" with style. The threesome's fantasy numbers, a noir-styled "Dance of Death" for Parris, a hoe-down high stepping "Cowgirl's Revenge" for DeGarmo, and an animated film spoofing "Potion Notion" for Hoty, are a highlight of the first act, as is their robust act one closer, "Shine Like the Sun."

Mahowald cuts a suitably leering, smarmy, self-satisfied figure as Hart, though his big number with the guys, "Here for You," is among the least successful in Parton's score. Zbornik gives a cherishable comic performance as Roz, tickling the funny bone with "Heart to Hart" and even earning a little sympathy with "5 to 9." As the office drunk, Margaret, Jane Blass manages her share of chuckles. The rest of the company supports the principals with charm and zeal, and they have plenty of production numbers (like the title tune, augmented with show-specific lyrics) in which to strut their stuff. They also manage choreographed changes of Kenneth Foy's ingenious sets with ease. William Ivey Long's costumes aptly transport us back to the gaudy glories of mid-seventies fashions, and Ken Billington does handsomely with his lighting design. It should be said while Parton's tuneful score reverberates with country music echoes, her lyrics are above par, and it would be fascinating to see what another attempt at Broadway musical songwriting by Dolly might yield.

9 to 5 runs through April 24 at the 5th Avenue Theatre For tickets or information, contact the 5th Avenue box office at 206-625-1900 or visit them online at www.5thavenue.org. For more information on the tour, visit www.9to5themusical.com.


Photo: Joan Marcus

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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