The movie-to-stage-musical phenomena hasn’t experienced unbridled success. For every hit like “Hairspray” or “The Producers”, you have losers like “Rocky”, “Ghost”, “Almost Famous” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”. Add to that motley crew of titles “9 to 5”, the 1980 film comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lilly Tomlin and Dolly Parton that became a Broadway musical in 2008. With book by Patricia Resnick (slavishly following the film script she co-wrote with Collin Higgins) and music/lyrics by Parton, this is truly a musical that never had to be. But there it is now at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre where the crowd on opening night had a blast, clearly enjoying every single minute.
“9 to 5” is an office satire about three female secretaries who decide to get revenge on their tyrannical, sexist boss by abducting him and running the business themselves. The trio, played at the Downtown Cabaret by a game troupe of singers, include Abby Rozmajzl as Violet (the Tomlin role), Sophie Rundhaug as Judy (Fonda) and Hannah Beatt as Doralee (Parton). Playing their sexist boss, Franklin Hart, is the musical’s director Andrea Pane, who apparently only took over the role a week before opening night. Whatever else one thinks of this “9 to 5”, credit has to be given to Pane for taking on two huge responsibilities and pulling it off by the first public performance.
Even though it is set in period, “9 to 5” still seems dated with many of the sexist moments as cringe worthy as you would expect. Simply put, it just doesn’t work anymore. Yes, the boss is terrible, but he plays almost as a cartoon now and the score, which consists primarily of women’s lib (remember that?) anthems about empowerment and revenge against “the man”, is sung shrill and loudly here. With the exception of the catchy and familiar title tune, the score often reminds you of better material. Violet’s celebratory song and dance about being a CEO, “One of the Boys”, instantly recalls Roxie Hart’s eponymous number in “Chicago”. The comparison is not a good one.
The rest of the company at the Cabaret is uneven, but under the conditions of a mediocre script and an opening night that had a few technical glitches with sound and lights, they were fairly valiant for pulling it off at all. Following their excellent production of “Cabaret”, the DCT’s latest offering has to be considered a disappointment.
“9 to 5” continues at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut, through July 8. For further information, call the box office at: 203.576.1636 or visit: www.mycabaret.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.