If you are fond of the iconic movie “9 to 5,” which I am, leave well enough alone. “9 to 5: The Musical,” now being presented by Home Made Theater does nothing to enhance the film. The play has no sparkle as does the film, nor, in fact, does it ever leave the cavernous stage of the Spa Little Theater in the Saratoga Spa State Park. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the musical version was concocted. There is only one memorable song, “Backwoods Barbie,” performed with the proper Dolly Parton bounce by Molly Rose McGrath, who, incidentally, does her usual wonderful stuff on stage.
The cast is, in truth, attractive, but even their best efforts cannot save this unfortunate effort.
‘9 to 5: The Musical’
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: Through Oct. 28
HOW MUCH: $29-$26
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
The show is directed by Laurie Larson, who also choreographed. All I can say is that, as a director, Ms. Larson is a middling choreographer.
A recording of Dolly herself, who wrote the music and lyrics, opens the show, setting the period. It is 1979, a time before computers or smartphones. Typewriters and Xerox machines are about as technical as it gets. Judy Bernly (Karen Kolterman) has taken her first job — we are told many times that she has taken care of home and husband for most of her adult life. Her husband, Dick (Tim Christensen), has left her for his secretary. Judy is placed in the care of Violet Newstead, beautifully realized by Amy-Lyn Slezak-Nelson. They team up with Doralee Rhodes (McGrath) to fight their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot” of a boss, Franklin Hart, Jr. (John Sutliff), who has advanced his own career on the backs of his “girls.”
The story becomes a struggle between the givers of the world and the takers and the theme of empowerment takes root. It’s a powerful theme and it makes for excellent theater. In this case, however, the theme is muted by tiresome dialogue, tedious storytelling and songs that do nothing to augment the plot — they merely overstate the obvious.
Musical director Richard Cherry and his combo, all talented players, are allowed to drown out the singers at times — a no-no in musical theater.
Of the players, it must be said that they make a sincere effort to keep up the energy of this ill-gotten piece, but the play and the music works against them.
In fairness, Marc Andrzejewski (Joe) and Slezak-Nelson have a tender moment with “Let Love Grow” in a plot twist that pairs Violet romantically with one of the male office workers. Costumes by the gifted Jen Dugan are appropriate, fun and period-perfect. Production stage manager Christine O’Connell and her admirable team keep the play moving nicely from scene to scene.
It pains me to write these words as I am a Parton fan and I would have loved writing a glowing review, but it wouldn’t be fair. If I were you, gentle reader, I’d stay home and rent the movie.