“9 to 5: The Musical” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ February 24, 2011


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

For a Broadway musical adaptation of a popular film to succeed, it must improve upon its source. “9 to 5: The Musical” fails in its vanity-inspired attempt as it turns the film’s worthy premise about women’s unequal treatment in the workplace into a tepid show. And Dolly Parton’s score, added to the film’s title tune, is a collection of pleasant but useless ditties that add nothing.

The road tour is supposed to improve the failed Broadway production. Parton’s few musical changes are minor melody shifts but nothing new or improved. The book is tightened, new scenery is designed, and a different director/choreographer is on board. If what’s on display is better, it’s easy to see why the original bombed on Broadway.

Vanity also plagues it. “9 to 5” is Parton’s first Broadway musical but her simplistic songs are like many she’s churned out earlier. They are catchy but forgettable. They drag out “9 to 5” while adding endlessly dull dance routines. Although Parton doesn’t perform live, she’s seen in annoying film clips at the beginning when she tells audiences what’s about to happen and at the end when she repeats what we just saw. Talk about tiresome vanity.

For those who don’t know, the story takes place in a large corporation where hardworking women make the company successful while sexist men take credit for successes. Parton tells us it is 1979 before today’s office automation when women were all secretaries. It focuses on supervisor Violet, a new secretary, Judy, who Violet trains, and boss Franklin Hart’s well-endowed assistant Doralee. Doralee’s rejected by everyone because Hart tells the office he’s sleeping with her. The trio unites, fight Hart, and male chauvinism. The message about women’s expertise sounds trite today but was revolutionary when the film premiered.

Jeff Calhoun’s lifeless staging proves he has nothing to work with. The tacky new set pieces slide around as the hard-working cast shoves them into place. Thank goodness for Dee Hoty, a true Broadway star, who is the cast’s best as Violet. “American Idol” runner up Diana DeGarmo plays Doralee with an obnoxiously shrill and shrieky voice as she tries without success to channel Parton. On opening night, Mamie Parris who usually plays Judy was out and understudy Ashley Moniz stood in adding nothing. Joseph Mahowald clones Dabney Coleman’s film Hart, while Kristine Zbornik duplicates Broadway’s Kathy Fitzgerald, a former Phoenix actor, as she copies Fitzgerald’s clever new comedy bits as Roz, the officious office snitch.

You are better off watching the “9 to 5” movie rather than the boring musical adaptation. It continues through Sunday at ASU Gammage. For tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade:  D