9 to 5: The Musical, based on the popular 1980 film, tells the story of Consolidated Industries employees Doralee (Zoë Kassay), Violet (Erin Romero), and Judy (Amanda Kuchinski) as they struggle to be respected in a male dominated work place. Sexism and harassment abound until the three girls plot revenge on their boss, Mr. Hart (Galloway Stevens). Throw in some mayhem, an exciting score penned by Dolly Parton herself, and you're left with the above premise spread over two full acts clocking in at around 2 and a half hours with intermission.
In this production, expertly directed and choreographed by Amy Marie McCleary, Broadway Palm has fully embraced the year 1979. Not that drab muted color pallet from the 70s, rather a much more stylized and electric take on the period. Imagine if you will, a giant Lichtenstein-inspired mural featuring a representation of our three heroines, painted on larger-than-life office blinds measuring roughly 12' high by 20' wide. This incredible pre-show look tells you all you need to know about what kind of night you are in for: Big, Broad, Animated, Colorful, and Stylish. The scenic design by James Wolk is truly first class, and takes the audience on a kaleidoscope journey of color and memories.
Zoë Kassay who plays the iconic Dolly Parton role is a force to be reckoned with. Her sweet charm, busty figure, and incredible voice all combine to create a performance even Ms. Parton herself would be proud of. The role of Doralee is arguably the most vocally demanding of the three ladies, requiring great stamina and range to successfully nail musical number after musical number where it seems the notes just get higher and higher. Zoë belts out every tune with a full-voiced gusto that is not only easy to listen to, but is also thrilling.
Erin Romero as the hard-working and dedicated Violet Newstead turns in a solid well-rounded performance. While Violet doesn't have the biggest and flashiest numbers to sing, she does have the majority of the show's scene work. The role requires an actress who can portray the workingwoman that everyone can root for and identify with. She is tough when she needs to be, and always loveable. It also doesn't hurt that Erin has an incredibly strong singing voice, even if the role doesn't necessarily call for it.
Amanda Kuchinski delivers a pitch-perfect musical performance as Consolidated Industries newest employee, Judy Bernly. Her voice is crystal clear, easy on the ears, and seems almost effortlessly produced. Amanda's strength unfortunately doesn't lie in her acting chops. Even though this production is highly stylized, the other two ladies still seemed to be able to ground their characters in a reality that seemed honest and identifiable. Ms. Kuchinski never quite made it there. Her portrayal of the mousy and down-trodden Judy was more reminiscent of a caricature instead of a truly identifiable woman. However, her voice soared so beautifully on the show's 11'oclock number Get Out and Stay Out, that one almost forgets any criticism they may have initially felt.
I would be remiss not to mention the hilarious and scene-stealing performances by Galloway Stevens as the despicable Mr. Hart, and Annie Freres as his hopelessly devoted side-kick Roz Keith. Both are perfectly cast and have wonderful comedic timing that is put to good use.
Loren Strickland, serving as this production's Musical Director has done an impressive job with Dolly Parton's intricate score. The ensemble handles the multi-layered vocal arrangements beautifully, and with the assistance of Chris McCleary's sound design sounds full, present, and exciting. Listen for Act Two's big ensemble number Change It, a true blend of solid musical direction and sound mixing.
The choreography by Amy Marie McCleary is exactly as it should be, using office props and stylized movement to help further the story. It would be very easy to "over-choreograph" a show like this, but in Amy's expert hands you are never distracted by the movement but rather drawn in by the precision and story-telling.
Make no mistake, 9 to 5: The Musical is certainly not the best-written musical of our time. The script does have a tendency to get paper-thin, and the score does have a few throwaway numbers that probably could have been cut. But on the whole, this is a fun night at the theatre that you won't regret.