Saturday, November 10, 2012

IWU's 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL Opens Tuesday at McPherson Theatre

Working nine to five
What a way to make a living
Barely getting by
It's all taking and no giving
They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It's enough to make you crazy if you let it!

Dolly Parton won two Grammy Awards and was nominated for an Oscar for the music and lyrics of that breezy, catchy little song, set to the beat of a typewriter and written for the movie Nine to Five. Parton also starred in the movie, playing Doralee, a smart, good-hearted secretary who bands together with two friends, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, when they aren't treated right at work. Fed up by their sexist pig of a boss who never gives them credit, the three comically turn the tables, trapping him in his own house and running the company by themselves.

The film was turned into a stage musical called, conveniently enough, 9 to 5: the Musical, almost 30 years after the movie, with lots of new songs supplied by Parton and a book written by Patricia Resnick, the same person credited for the screenplay for the original Nine to Five along with its director, Colin Higgins.

This time out, 9 to 5 starred Allison Janney (The West Wing) as Violet, the Lily Tomlin role, Stephanie J. Block (The Pirate Queen) taking over as Judy, the character Jane Fonda played on screen, and newcomer Megan Hilty as Doralee, Parton's role. Like Block, Hilty was best known at that point as a replacement for one of the leads in Wicked. After 9 to 5, she broke out on TV's Smash, the weird musical drama with all kinds of problems, not the least of which is pretending that Hilty doesn't overshadow the competition.

The stage musical is bright and bouncy, with three good roles for women and one -- the dastardly boss -- for a man. On Broadway, Marc Kudisch took that role, earning a Tony nomination along with Janney, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and Dolly Parton's score. All three actresses were nominated for Drama Desk Awards, with Janney taking it home.

All of that means that there should be plenty of opportunities for Illinois Wesleyan's cast and crew to shine as they present 9 to 5: The Musical at McPherson Theatre starting Tuesday night at 8 pm. Assistant Professor Scott Susong, whose work on shows like Hello Again and Once Upon a Mattress has been terrific in the past, directs this 9 to 5 with a cast of 27, which includes Christine Polich, Lizzie Rainville and Kate Rozycki as Judy, Doralee and Violet, respectively. Josh Levinson plays creepy Franklin M. Hart, Jr. (Or, you know, the Big Bad Boss.)

For this Illinois Wesleyan School of Theatre Arts production, Jean MacFarland Kerr choreographs, while Saul Nache acts as musical director and Saundra DeAthos-Meers conducts.

9 to 5: The Musical opens Tuesday, November 13, and continues through the 18th, with performances at 8 pm Tuesday through Saturday and a 2 pm matinee on Sunday. For ticket information, click here to see the IWU Theatre box office page.

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