presented by the Victoria Theatre Association
“9 to 5: The Musical,” Dolly Parton and Patricia Resnick’s shaky adaptation of the 1980 workplace revenge film of the same name, struggles to overcome its dated discrimination premise and an assortment of hit and miss tunes, but there are commendable elements nonetheless in its reconceived, well cast national tour, which began its regional premiere Tuesday, February 1 at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Miami Valley and Good Samaritan Hospitals Broadway Series.
A greater sense of nostalgia in the form of a terrific pop culture-inspired show curtain as well as Parton’s warm, folksy introduction and closing commentary (including a sing-a-long) effectively distinguishes the tour from its unnecessarily flashy, vocally erratic and unsurprisingly short-lived 2009 Broadway counterpart. There is also a sharper character-driven focus and tighter pace that director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun establishes that keeps the show entertaining and engaging even when three labored fantasy sequences and a swarm of bad jokes and crude lyrics become cringe-inducing.
The core trio of Mamie Parris as ditzy divorcee Judy Bernly, “American Idol” runner-up Diana DeGarmo as voluptuous Doralee Rhodes, and three-time Tony Award nominee Dee Hoty as no-nonsense Violet Newstead form a compatible bond. Each character exudes a genuine, down to earth sensibility so it’s easy to empathize with the torment they endure at the hand of their bigoted boss Franklin Hart, Jr. (Joseph Mahowald in a terribly one-dimensional role). The endearing Parris actually finds depth in what could easily be perceived as a thankless part. Her belting soprano absolutely sparkles in “Get Out and Stay Out,” which powerfully culminates in a “Wicked” style reminiscent of “Defying Gravity” or “No Good Deed.” The naturally perky DeGarmo remains a vocal knockout and couldn’t be more charming. Her poignant rendition of “Backwoods Barbie” is a meaningful highlight, but she’s also great leading the rousing ensemble number “Change It.” Hoty, a wonderful authoritarian, particularly makes the most of Act 2 opener “One of the Boys,” Parton’s meager attempt at writing a razzle-dazzle show tune.
Enjoyable featured turns are given by the very funny, spontaneous Kristine Zbornick as Hart’s infatuated secretary Roz Keith, Gregg Goodbrod as Joe, Wayne Schroeder as the Colonel Sanders-esque Tinsworthy, and scene-stealer Jane Blass as the boozy Margaret.
Although there’s no escaping the fact that the best number in the show was written over 30 years ago, “9 to 5” is better here than in New York with an intent to please Parton admirers as well as fans of the film and its era.
9 to 5: The Musical continues through Sunday, February 6 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets. Remaining performances will be held today at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Act One: 70 minutes. Act Two: 45 minutes. Tickets are $36-$90. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.
In addition, the show notably contains two Wright State University alums: swing K.J. Hippensteel and stage manager E. Cameron Holsinger.