A Retro Romp : 9 to 5; The Musical at Maine State Music Theatre
9 to 5; The Musical at Maine State Music Theatre is a Retro Romp . With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick, who co-authored the film, 9 to 5: The Musical opened on Broadway in 2009. MSMT has taken the latest revision of “9 to 5; The Musical” and brought a “tongue firmly in cheek” farce to screeching life. The show is a look back at the end of an era, which needed to be over, and a fantasy solution.
Lauren Blackman as the “Lily Tomlin” character, Violet Newstead, takes the lead of the trio that moves the action. She sparkles in her duet with Joe (Stephane Duret who killed as LOLA last year!).
MSMT’s The Color Purple breakout star Jaden Dominique as Judy Bernly is a show stealer as the newly divorced character. This young actress is a true star on the rise with a voice that stops shows and an honesty that shines in a show that is primarily caricatures and with reason. There’s nothing realistic here and that’s ok. Carolyn Anne Miller, fresh from her performance as Kate in Titanic, plays Doralee Rhodes and her “Backwoods Barbie” is one of the most honest moments of the show. She sells it beautifully and believable as a woman from the country trying to fit in,
Kevin Earley, who was featured in MSMT’s Titanic, plays the “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss” Franklin Hart, with good humor. He is a likeable bigot, a composite of many male bosses back in the day. This script makes him almost sympathetic. Hart is just not evil enough to earn the treatment he gets unlike in the film. Kevin Earley has a blast with the part in a Will Ferrel kind of way, he plays the philanderer well– a product of the times- but somehow you know a mean look and he would have run home .
Charis Leos as Roz, the long-suffering office snoop gets broad laughs but the subplot feels needlessly unkind. Yes, the boss is a jerk but this Roz is adorable in that normal human way, and the ‘repulsed’ double take of the boss was unneeded. On the other hand, since Roz is played with sincerity and high comedic grace Charis Leos counts as an A plus. Charis Leos and this reviewer have played many of the same roles over the years- ok so mine were 20ish years ago- but my appreciation for what it takes to pull off these parts is greater for that reason. The actress gets to have a blast with the part, but she also must love her flaws and all. And Leos shows that “Roz” is at heart, just a girl with a crush and blinders on, and who hasn’t been there? Brava, Miss Leos. Carry on , you’ve got game. Now let’s see “Kimberly Akimbo.”
The plot is over the top. Violet accidentally laces the bossman’s tea with rat poison, then all three trap him in bondage gear while they turn the office into an equal-pay paradise with child care and rehab programs. No one pretends to take the plot seriously, which plays well.
Featured actors include Alicia Babin, Micheal Di Liberto, Stephane Duret, David Girolmo, Lucy Godinez, Stephanie Maloney, Sarah Miramontes, Michael Olaribigbe, J.P. Qualters, Mandie Rapoza and Davon Williams. The ensemble is Collin Flanagan, Jasmine Gillenwaters, Elijah James, Jalen Kirkman, Chelsea Pena, Camila V. Romero, Albert Sterner and Cari Walton. All dance and sing and give their all.
The costumes are great, the wigs are fabulous. The music is loud and rocking, sets are slick. MSMT’s production and creative team of 9 to 5: The Musical: Kenny Ingram (Director/Choreographer), Aaron McAllister (Music Director), Amy Bertacini (Production Stage Manager), Bill Mohney (Scenic Design), Ryan Joyner (Projections), Annalise V. Caudle (Lighting), Shannon Slaton (Sound Design), Katie Dowse (Costume Design), & Kevin Foster (Wig and Hair Design).
This reviewer enjoyed the show and the audience on opening night was cheering. It is not necessarily for everyone, although the production values, the cast, and the entire show are very well done. For me, growing up then, working then, and knowing similar bosses and coworkers, it was a smile at a rather painful time and poking fun can be healing. Go. Enjoy. Celebrate that we have taken so many brave, brave steps and are leaving (still) this time behind us only as a cartoon, a song, a dance, and be glad our workplaces are so much better.
Tickets for 9 to 5: The Musical and all MSMT productions, can be purchased only by calling the Box Office at 207.725.8769 or by visiting www.msmt.org.