By Pat Robbenolt
Are you ready to have a good laugh? Get your tickets to “9-5: The Musical” at the Cumberland County Playhouse. Energy pours from the stage with the rise of the curtain. With toothbrush or comb, coffee cup or flask in hand, the actors prepare for work. Their lives are focused on where they spend their lives from 9 to 5.
Dolly Parton casts a big screen presence over the action. It is only right that she be there. She did write the music and the songs for the hilarious 1980 movie of the same name. Patricia Resnick based the book for the musical on that movie. Opening in 2009, the Broadway version of “9-5: The Musical” received 15 Drama Desk Award nominations and four Tony Award nominations. The song “9 to 5” received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song of the year.
Weslie Webster brings us competent funny Violet Newstead, longing to be the CEO. She is the widowed mother of teenage Josh, brought to the stage by Cory Clark. Dare she risk romance with a younger man? John Dobbratz plays a winsome younger man, Joe.
Office newcomer, with no marketable skills but a professional appearance, is Judy Bemly played delightfully by Anna Baker. The scarf caught in the typewriter roller was almost as hilarious as the other uses of the same scarf. Greg Pendzick plays the husband from whom she is recently divorced. He watches in horror as she develops into a powerful woman declaring, “I’ll be at your mercy no more!” to men who would manipulate her.
The buxom Doralee Rhodes, a well-padded Leila Nelson, is not popular with the other women in the office. By their boss, Franklin Hart, Jr., she is deeply valued. Britt Hancock plays Hart as a philanderer who is both obnoxious and overbearing. We catch only a glimpse of his too innocent wife Missy played by Nicole Begue Hackmann. She is sent off on a vacation while he enjoys himself
Hart (Hancock) is taken unawares by this scheming office staff. They know how to run the company. They know how to work together. Put him in his place, they do in an amazing and hilarious fashion. Their plotting has been carefully done. They are able to show him a bit of western justice, including the use of the branding iron.
Lauren Marshall plays Roz, Hart’s only loyal employee. Her unbiased devotion to this impossibly self-centered man is extremely funny. She is with him to hell and back and is quite willing to be his “girl” in the midst of the “women” employees.
In the midst of the conspiratorial work of the office staff, there are fifteen original songs and wondrous dance sequences. The versatility and agility on the stage is breathtaking. Male dancers Daniel Black, Quinn Cason, Cory Clark, Greg Pendzick, Austin Price, Michael Ruff, Cody Rutledge and Chaz Sanders are amazing. Each time we see these men on stage, we are aware that their dance and vocal talents have multiplied.
The female ensemble composed of DeAnna Etchison, Nicole Begue Hackmann, Dee Hill, Carol Irvin, Meg McWhorter, Lindy Pendzick, Heather Reed and Catlin Schaub brings their skills, both vocal and movement, to enhance the show.
Bryce McDonald and Britt Hancock deserve special plaudits as directors of this delightful addition to the Playhouse season. Ron Murphy and his nine-piece orchestra bring music that has the audience clapping at curtain rise and the finale. Leila Nelson has again achieved an amazing level of excellence as a choreographer while doing a fine job of acting within the production.
Set designer Curtis Phillips brings us the Chicago skyline in 1979. Renee Luttrell has designed a delightful array of costumes to enhance the action. Both Ginny Adams as lighting designer and Kate C. Johnson in charge of properties are newcomers to the production team. It is good to have Ryan Haderlie back for his third season as sound designer and Katy Fagiolo for her fourth season as stage manager.
“9 to 5: The Musical” can be seen on the Mainstage at the Cumberland County Playhouse until July 14. Order your tickets for yourselves and your guests. Rated PG 13, there are plenty of laughs awaiting adult and teen audiences.