For people of a certain age, the film “9 to 5” and its ubiquitous theme song instantly are recognizable. The story of three office workers’ revenge on their misogynistic employer stars Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman, and was a huge hit when it was released in 1980, but its theme of disparity between men and women in the workplace feels timely even today.
Although its setting is 1979, the Woodstock Musical Theatre Company’s production of “9 to 5,” a 2009 Broadway hit with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, draws a spotlight on the issue while never losing its sense of fun.
Franklin Hart Jr. (Kevin Pollack) is the worst boss on the planet, a “sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot” who shamelessly chases, humiliates and passes over for promotion his female employees, particularly Violet Newstead (Alison Hage), Doralee Rhodes (Maggie McCord) and new employee Judy Bernly (Colleen Galvicius). When the three women inadvertently kidnap their employer, they set in motion a series of events that culminate in nothing less than their own mini-revolution, all accompanied by enthusiastic singing and dancing from the cast of 20 under the musical direction of Geoffrey King and the fancy footwork of choreographer/set designer/actor Billy Seger.
Seger’s set design, enhanced by costumer Kathy Bruhnke and wig designers Aaron Gomez and Virginia Zymonas, perfectly capture the area with a lot of fun little touches for the audience to spot during the performance. Lighting designer Dan Frank and sound designer Timothy R. Curtis also add much to the production. The team has utilized every inch of the space of the Woodstock Opera House with maximum efficiency, not always easy to do with large shows in the Opera House’s intimate setting.
The five-piece orchestra, led by pianist Gloria Peetz, delivers knockout performances without ever overpowering the production. Keep an eye on percussionist Dave Byers and keyboardist Kristin Lundine Miller, who deliver virtuoso performances of their own from the pit.
On stage, Pollack, Hage, McCord and Galvicius clearly are having a blast with the material and give strong performances that will have the audience rooting for our heroines and hating the villain. Pollack gleefully chews the scenery portraying Hart as a man completely devoid of meritorious attributes, but he delivers through an absolutely committed performance and dynamic vocal chops. McCord is a standout, with a dead-on portrayal of the sweet but strong Doralee Ms. Parton herself would be proud of. The entire cast, however, should be commended on their efforts. They all are working at the top of their game in this production.
The show is technically challenging for a number of reasons (no spoilers here), and kudos to director Regina Belt-Daniels – in her long-awaited return to directing for WMTC – for being able to make sense of it all and delivering a fun, exuberant show that delivers plenty of bang for the buck and makes this office anything but a typical 9-to-5 experience.
• Jeff Cook has performed in and directed numerous stage productions in the area and is a retired member of William Street Rep’s improv troupe. He directed “Young Frankenstein” in October 2016 for the Woodstock Musical Theatre Company. He has spent more than 12 years in corporate communications. He is a longtime McHenry County resident living in Crystal Lake.
“9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL”
WHEN: Through April 9
WHERE: Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock
COST & INFO: Presented by Woodstock Musical Theatre Company. Schedule: 8 p.m. April 7-8 & 14-15; 2 p.m. April 8 and 3 p.m. April 9. Tickets: $24 adults, $21 students and seniors. Tickets and information: 815-338-5300 or www.woodstockoperahouse.com.