J. A. Di Bello’s Review of 9 to 5 The Musical

Sept 7, 2019

The Muddy Water Players

Museum Village

Kansas in August

     On opening night, the cast and crew of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 the Musial diligently performed to a sold-out house and were rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation. Although dated in several respects, (film 1980, Broadway 2009) the thematic significance of 9 to 5 is as germane today as it was when it premiered on Broadway, receiving four Tony Award nominations. Three courageous women ban together to present a scheming, if not underhanded coalition to rescue themselves and the company that employs them from a destructive, egotistical dominating, authoritarian boss, Franklin Hart, Jr. The vehicle for this noted sample of musical theatre judiciously utilizes humor in the form of innuendos, and double entendres combined with a Dolly Parton back-woodsy approach. The result: an evening of hilarious fun that graciously is “As Corny as Kansas in August.”

The social and entertainment issues contained in this production are efficiently brought to the stage by three “women” from the office group: A Holy Triumvirate. Standing tall, with an impressive ability to hold the stage and belt a few is Terri Weiss, as Violet. She’s an accomplished actor and director with Muddy Waters Players enjoying her 20th season. To insert a true down-home, pistol packin’, knee-slappin’ atmosphere there’s an eye-catching Doralee, portrayed by an energy packed, vivacious Martina Drayer. Her portrayal is crisp and vocally impressive. And, as a charming Southern Belle, she presents with unmistakable courage the attitude and appearance typically associated with theatre’s southern ladies.

To complete this trio, there’s Judy, the new, untrained office girl, who is attacked by the Zerox machine. Carmen Nardone’s performance representing Judy is totally and irrevocably impressive with respect to character portrayal and rich vocal significance, especially as she expands the apron to the pit with her vocals. Judy’s role is significant as she complicates a simplistic yet arousing plot. Brava!

The subject of all the nefarious plotting and intrigue, the notorious Mr. Franklin Hart Jr., must be credible. Eric Dohman carries this challenging role as the unyielding, chauvinistic boss to the limit. He’s convincing, all right. He’s a totally lecherous boss; who spurs the women to seek an exciting, unconventional resolution.

On stage, additional members of this CT-MWP ensemble deserve recognition. Joe Fox was perfect in his pivotal role of Joe and his romantic pursuit of Violet, while Nicole Bader was simply awesome in her portrayal of Roz, with a couple of outstanding vocals to verbalize her “crush” on, of all people, the Boss.

The “Corny” phrase utilized here is complementary and is lifted from the lyrics of Oscar II Hammerstein / Richard Rodgers’s “A Wonderful Guy,” first presented at the Belasco Theatre, Broadway, 1949, by Mary Martin, in South Pacific. A show set in World War Two, Pacific Theatre, and one that easily falls into the mentioned category of “dated.”

WWII is over, but racial prejudice, ethnic stereo types and military combatants facing death with the same regularity as eating breakfast remain germane. The Muddy Water Players’ production of Parton’s 9 to 5 also places down-stage center related social, employment issues and resolutions that retain the same level of social significance. The Muddy Waters Players, effectively establish a historically effective background for the thematic issues contained in this era’s #METOO movement.

For many, the business world continues as largely white, male and frequently characterized by an ingrained and systemic bias. Savvy women “know the difference between regrettable but consensual choice and an assault, and most know the difference between an unrequited crush and stalking.” 9 to 5 The Musical deliberately reminds us: There’s still a lota of Corn in Kansas!  

Noteworthy it is to point out that none of the above happens without the talents of Director Kate Loftus, Musical Director Brian Flint and Diane Holbert, as Choreographer. Of course, there are vibrant others on this production team deserving compliments and praise.

Courage and leadership awards must also be recommended for this opening night performance at the Museum Village. It appears that without sufficient notice a full-blown carnival, complete with awesome fireworks, was booked for the parking lot on the day and night of the opening performance. Bruce and Carol Roman seem to have employed that trusty, time-tested procedure for unexpected obstructions: “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.” With true theatrical esprit de corps volunteers were summoned, and patrons of the theatre were directed to park their vehicle on the Village Green. Mission accomplished, thanks to the actions of Bruce and Carol. Thank you.

9 to 5, the Musical will continue it run at The Playhouse at Museum Village through September 22nd. Tickets and additional information are available at the box office 845-294-9465 or the website: https://ctmwp.org/box-office/

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