It was a time that gave Reagan to the nation, padded shoulders and leg warmers to women, and parachute pants and single sequined gloves to men. At the start of that decade, it gave a model for gender equality in the office workplace through the film 9 to 5, directed by Colin Higgins, who wrote the screenplay with Patricia Resnick.
This stylish and raucous satire on office gender politics has been transformed into a musical (music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick) which is being presented by Northern Kentucky University’s theatre department.
9 to 5 shows the everyday humiliations and heartbreaks of three women working at the fictional offices of Consolidated, Inc. Violet Newstead (Ellie Bennett), head secretary and aspiring manager, is training the bumbling recent-divorced newcomer to the secretarial pool Judy Bernly (Rachel Gardner) while also avoiding the friendly advances of Doralee Rhodes (Annie Jennings), whom she thinks is sleeping with their boss, Franklin Hart, Jr. (Jathan Briscoe). Once it becomes clear that Doralee is not sleeping with Mr. Hart, Violet, Judy, and Doralee hatch a plot to blackmail their boss and get him away from the prying eyes of Hart’s loyal secretary Roz Keith (Audrey Dant). I can’t reveal any more for fear of spoiling the action.
Performances in 9 to 5, the Musical
The principle roles demonstrate strong singing talent. Ellie Bennett is a standout as Violet Newstead. Bennett perfectly channels her character’s angst. Her Little Guy speech at the end of the show is a perfect example of the combined determination and pluck that makes up this character. Bennett also has a strong singing voice, belting out such songs as “One of the Boys” with power and grace.
Annie Jennings also provides a strong performance as Doralee Rhodes. Jennings can play the innocent blonde that is the butt of jokes, but also can deliver some searing good vocals. She was a standout in such songs as “Backwoods Barbie” and “Change It.” Jennings also has a sense of humor, so she is able to capitalize on the jokes written for her character.
Rachel Gardner is similarly strong with her performance as Judy Bernly. She is able to belt out songs like “Get Out and Stay Out,” while also playing the bumbling newcomer. Gardner’s character is the one which shows the most growth during the show and she does depict that transformation in a nice manner. She is great confronting her ex-husband when he wants to come back to her.
This is a large cast, so there are several other performers who are also standouts. Jathan Brisco’s Mr. Hart is the quintessential sexist, egotistical, lying hypocritical bigot who also has a very funny scene at the very end of Act I that I will not spoil. Audrey Dent plays a strong Roz Keith. I have seen several productions of this show, but never with an actress who brings as much verve. Dent is great singing her big number. Finally, there are plenty of laughs and a great transformation of character by Margaret the office lush (Jenna Khan).
Director Corrie Danieley, who directed last year’s wonderful Peter and the Star Catcher, does a good job with portraying complex characters in adult situations. She keeps the story real and relatable. Music Director Damon Stevens is also great with the music, and Jeri Deckard Gatch with the choreography.
This is a fun production of 9 to 5 that should please anyone who attends. There are some strong moments and great singing.
Because the NKU Fine Arts Center is being renovated, this production of9 to 5, the Musical is playing at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, KY. The show runs November 3 to 11, 2023. For more information, click here to get to the Carnegie website or go to the NKU ticketing Office HERE.