By Lynn Geyer
Listen, my children, and you shall hear of how it was before women’s lib reared its head against the good ole’ boys’ playground at the office.
Before TV’s “Mad Men” made it common place to “flirt” with a secretary, there was the movie “9 to 5.”
The musical version, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, tells the plight of the working woman in a man’s world of “the office” and Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s production of this (almost) farce is a hoot to eye and ear.
There are three principle female players in this show. Office Manager Violet, who has trained many a man to fill the promotion she seeks and for which she is completely qualified; Doralee, the boss’ private secretary with whom he would like to be a lot more private; and Judy, the newly divorced know-nothing trying to start life over again with very little confidence.
These three take on our lecherous villain, Franklin Hart, Jr., president of Consolidated Industries. Hart is the stereotypical “chase-around-the-desk” boss who usually gets what he wants by blackmail or just plain fear.
In “9 to 5” the boss meets his match with the undaunted trio who turn the tables on Hart, badger the boss into submission, kidnap him and manage to change the company for the better for everyone except Hart, who gets his timely comeuppance before the final curtain.
Once again, Director/Choreographer Jon Douglas Rake has done an excellent job with his cast and relating the story to the audience in vivid terms; the songs are cleverly done and interspersed with set changes choreographed to perfection.
Musical Director Jeffrey Stvrtecky keeps the singers focused; the nine-piece orchestra seldom over-powers the vocalists, which is very good. Diz Carroll and Judy Lantz are on reeds; Michael Leavens and Lee Olds, on trumpet; Mick Crosby is trombone; Sam Chakerian on keyboard; Michael Hemming does guitar; Josh Howle on bass; and Iris McBride and Barbara J. Burzynski take turns on drums, rounding out the accompaniment.
Will Abrahamse has created the multifaceted set which holds many surprises as it changes from office to bedroom and beyond. John Chenault lights the show just right.
The ensemble of 19 includes 13 who double in minor roles, as well. They are Steve Barnett as Dwayne, Brian Loughridge as Josh; Diane Bozzo is Missy; Emileigh Kershaw as Maria; Eric Richardson as Dick; Railene Gordon is Kathy; Brittany Henderson is Margaret; Kawika Huston is Bob Enright; Nigel Forsythe as Tinsworthy, Arthur Cuadros as the Detective; Kathy Kluska is the Doctor; Amanda Jackson is a Candy Striper; Stephanie Graham is a New Employee; the rest of the ensemble include Carlos Barajas, Cameron Brown, Mary Chole Lee, Chiquita Levy, Jamie Lund and Stephen Nishida.
These cast members hold their own in song and dance as well as speaking parts. They fill the stage with controlled chaos, resembling many known workplaces.
Shannon Russell is Joe, the company account who has a sequestered liking for Violet. He finally tells her of his intentions while singing “Let Love Grow” quite nicely.
Dana Johnson is Roz Keith, the office tattle-tail who has desires for her bossy boss. She plays Roz as the worker you love to hate just right, but when she lets loose with “Heart to Hart” her hidden sexual fantasies are brazenly flaunted for all to see. Good job.
John B. Cooper is the object of Roz’s affection, Franklin Hart, Jr. Cooper is dastardly as the evil boss-man who spreads maligning rumors about his relations with Doralee at the drop of a kerchief and easily keeps his “girls” under his tyrannical thumb – the worst part about his character is that Hart believes he is right! Cooper plays him perfectly.
Brynne Geiszler is Judy Bernly, the most recent member of the team. Geiszler is aptly lost and timid to start but she blossoms once she meets with Violet and Doralee, who tell the novice how it really is. Geiszler shines in her fantasy, “Dance of Death.”
Sheri Tipton is Violet Newstead, our office manager looking for and having her revenge. Tipton is as wonderful in office leadership as she is in the character role.
Cherity Harchis is Doralee Rhodes, Hart’s private secretary who wants to remain on business terms with her lecherous employer. This country chanteuse belts out a song that would have the Grand Ole Opry audience on their feet with applause.
“9 to 5, the Musical” continues at Tacoma Musical Playhouse at 7116 Sixth Avenue, just east of Jackson, through June 9, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 565-6867 or go online to www.tmp.org.
If you are too young to remember when women in the office were fair game for any hunter with a little bit of seniority or tout, you’ll consider “9 to 5” a fun bit of farce. If you’ve lived through those not so long ago times, you’ll relish the fact that those days are (almost) gone. In any event, call to make reservations soon; opening night had a near full house. This show is a winner with a nice surprise in the second act; tickets will go fast.