‘9 to 5: The Musical’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St.
WHEN: Through Jan. 26
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 518.730.7370, or sloctheater.org
By PAUL LAMAR
For The Daily Gazette
SCHENECTADY — Just this past week the state of Virginia finally ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
This year is the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment and the founding of the League of Women Voters.
And the Me Too Movement is alive and kicking.
No wonder, then, that Friday night’s audience at SLOC’s energetic production of “ 9 to 5: The Musical” applauded and hooted at Dolly Parton’s score (book by Patricia Resnick) exposing sexism and celebrating sisterhood, with the biggest response for “Get Out and Stay Out,” Judy’s (Kelly Sienkiewicz) savage dismissal of her unfaithful husband, Rick (Michael Camelo).
This 2009 musical follows the 1980 movie plot line. Franklin Hart, Jr. (Nick Foster) heads a company generically called Consolidated, though all of the power is consolidated in him. Workers suffer under his stringent rules, which are reinforced by his devoted secretary, Roz (Amanda Rogner); and the women suffer further with his unwanted sexual advances, with the full-figured Doralee (Erica Buda-Doran) especially prone to his assaults. Furthermore, Violet (Joan M. Horgan) is bypassed for promotion by men she has trained.
Aided in truth-telling by pot one evening, Violet, Doralee, and Judy consolidate their grievances. They kidnap Hart, take over the management of the office, and — well, now what? Their happiness seems short-lived in the face of potential jail time.
However, like other feminist revenge comedies (“Lysistrata” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” come to mind), a solution appears, this time in the guise of a deus ex machina, Mr. Tinsworthy (the delightful Jeffrey P. Hocking, dressed in angel white).
Played on a colorful and cleverly fashioned set by Marc Christopher, the production zips along, with the stars backed by a hard-working ensemble. Musical director Adrienne Sherman’s work with the singers and the pit band makes Parton’s bright lyrics and tunes come alive. Choreographer Sara Paupini and director Stephen Foust have used the ensemble in a generally creative way. They mask the scene changes with little dance routines; their arm gestures often reflect hour hands at 9 and 5; and their movement around the stage is frequently eye-catching. But sometimes less dancing would be less distracting, and in “One of the Boys,” for example, the frenetic hoofing takes our eye off Violet and seems, in spots, to be a stretch for the performers. The visionary Foust is backed by a fine production staff (kudos, set construction crew), with a special nod to co-stage-managers Cece Widomski and Bri Westad, who keep tabs on everything/everyone through rehearsals and the run.
John Meglino as Joe, Violet’s love interest, is sweetness itself, and he and Horgan make a tender moment of “Let Love Grow.” Rogner’s rendition of “Heart to Hart” is the kind of cameo that wins best supporting actress honors at the Tonys. “Here for You” is male chauvinism set to music, and Foster’s slithering rendition and insufferable pomposity elsewhere make us feel that any punishment Hart gets is less than he deserves.
The talented brunette-blond-red-headed trio at the top beautifully complement each other. Horgan’s stirring delivery of Violet’s speech near the end is the emotional apotheosis of the show; Buda-Doran’s amusing and poignant “Backwoods Barbie” surely reflects Parton’s experience: “I’ve always been misunderstood because of how I look. Don’t judge me by the cover ’cause I’m a real good book.” Sienkiewicz’s voice shows to great effect as Judy leads all the women in what amounts to the show’s self-actualization anthem: “I Just Might.”
Revenge: it feels good, and it’s the source of much humor here. But as Foust says in his program note, “We’ve come a long way, baby, but still have a long way to go.”