By Joseph Szalinski
For as long as people worked, they’ve had insufferable bosses/superiors to whom they had to report. While these horrible bosses can exist in any industry or field, megalomaniacs seem to have made offices their natural habitat. I’ve met my fair share. However, I might’ve stayed longer at any former jobs if coworkers randomly busted out into song throughout the day. Nothing builds camaraderie quite like music…or kidnapping, apparently, and it’s these activities that are at the heart of the latest production at The Strand Theatre, Dolly Parton and Patricia Resnick’s 9 to 5: The Musical, directed by Nick Navari.
Part of The Strand’s Broadway on Main series, this show is also a staged adaptation of the classic cult comedy from the 80’s that helped Dolly Parton become the superstar she is. While there are some slight deviations from the film in terms of plot and placing, and most obviously the musical aspect, the rest is very similar: a woman starts at a new job after a marriage falls through; she meets a couple of kindred spirits, including another woman who is ostracized and criticized by others; all the while the boss is being a skeevy dude, which motivates the women to formulate a means to exact revenge; ultimately culminating in wacky hijinks.
The strength of the show comes from the near-constant musical numbers throughout the story, especially in the first act. Tunes range from the lively and catchy theme song to more introspective or heartfelt ones, with each piece demonstrating the prowess of the cast. Together with physical comedy, music does a tremendous job of handling the humor’s heavy lifting, “Here for You” being a prime example. The Strand Theatre Ensemble, under the direction of keyboardist Amy Kapp, marvelously flesh out the numbers, providing a brilliant instrumental supplement.
Not only are the cast great singers, but amazing dancers and actors as well. Headed by Cait Crowley as Violet Newstead, Caroline Connell as Doralee Rhodes, and Joann Spencer as Judy Bernly, everyone gives the show a piece its heart, the trio in particular during their more turbulent scenes. They all make easy work of using humor and comedy to tackle the weighty themes and messages in the script (as well as from the source material), while maintaining a good balance between the silly and the serious. Their performances are emblematic of their respective characters’ limitless persistence tinged with wonderful elements all their own.
In the realm of comic relief, Evan Krug gives a hilarious portrayal as the slimy Franklin Hart Jr. that’s as polarizing as it is repulsive. Hannah Taylor splits sides as Roz Keith, whose own dogged ambition to bone Hart depends on her attempts to thwart the trio. Paxon Masters, who plays both Josh Newstead and Mr. Tinsworthy, is quite a delight during his appearance as the latter.
Of course, a show like this wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of those behind the scenes. Caroline Connell does double-duty as a performer and thoughtful choreographer; set (Nick Navari), lighting (Kelly Page), and sound (JP Lisella) assist in bringing the stage to life; costuming by Missy Nowakowski further evokes the office environment.
Once again, The Strand, and the company of this production, put on a terrific show. One replete with jokes, sentimentality, and plenty of jams. Check it out!
“9 to 5” runs to September 17 at the Strand Theater, 119 N Main Street, Zelienople, PA. For more information, click here.