Saturday, June 13, 2009

9 to 5

I was not expecting to enjoy 9-5, although in the years since seeing the movie I have come to very much admire Dolly Parton as a songwriter, especially on finding out she had written ‘I Will Always Love You,’ for The Bodyguard, as that was a song I sang in my head to the loves(I thought they were) who didn’t work out, the best torch song ever for misguided women, one of whom I was. But to my surprise, and intermittent delight, the musical stage version of that long ago(how long ago was it?) movie is very much a crowd-pleaser, and for a lot of the show, I was a part of the crowd.
For openers(a big one in an office) they announced some news from the Jimmy Carter era so we would all have our heads in the right time, and not be displaced by the out-of-date(is it really?) male supremacy. Allison Janney is authoritatively winning (as she always is) as the brainiest one of the trio, though her singing voice is by no means up to her acting; still it’s nice she’s there. Megan Hilty is past adorable as the Dolly today stand-in, with a voice that goes up up and away past her deliciousness as the great-breasted ‘Backwoods Barbie’ blonde. Stephanie J. Block in the Jane Fonda role is uncomfortably stiff, as Jane was, too, her penchant for comedy having been left behind, but Block’s voice is terrific. One is moved to wish she would take some acting lessons to bring her stage presence up to the quality of what’s in her throat—perhaps a yoga class or two to make her loosen up enough to seem comfortable in her own skin, and a hottie guide to how to seem sultry when wrapped in black sequins.
The guys, starting with Marc Kudisch as the lecherous, unsympathetic boss is kind of Charles Grodin pressingly comic, and Violet’s husband who dumped her, Dwayne is not worth sorrowing over. But Andy Karl as Joe who yearns for Violet’s appealing older woman is really likeable. Most disappointing is Kathy Fitzgerald as Roz, playing it like a road-company, unfunny, untouching Peggy Cass, making one yearn for a middle-aged woman who could be at once unappealing and hilarious—there have to be a slew of those looking for a job on the Great or sometimes Not-so-Great White Way.
There could have been a more drastic reworking of the movie so the musical hewed less strictly to its lines, especially the hospital scene which seemed extraneous and slowed down the happy momentum. But there was no doubt the audience was having the best time. The show deserves a run for its—and your—money.