I had a perfectly good time at “9 to 5,” but it’s not what I might have hoped from the first Dolly Parton musical — there will be others, right? I hope so, because I know so many musical theater queens who are also big Dolly fans. As a matter of fact I’m often struck by how many gays I know, of every stripe, from club kids to alterna-queers, are huge Dolly followers.
And indeed Parton’s score is quite tuneful, with a handful of winners like “Backwoods Barbie” and “Shine Like the Sun,” and a clutch of the best sort of soaring anthems near show’s end. Very few of the songs, though, are anywhere near as instantly memorable as the title tune. This is especially noticeable in a season with such instantly catchy stuff as “Solidarity Forever” from “Billy Elliot” or “I’m Alive” from “Next to Normal.”
Following very closely the plot of the movie on which it’s based, “9 to 5” follows a trio of overworked and undervalue office workers as they hatch a plan to get even with their boss, a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” It’s mostly the performances which make the evening as much fun as it is. Marc Kudisch is much sexier as evil boss Franklin Hart than the film’s Dabney Coleman was, but he’s every bit as deliciously oily and reprehensible.
Megan Hilty successfully channels Parton herself as sexy executive secretary Doralee Rhodes. Stephanie J. Block’s portrayal of newbie Judy Bernly is the biggest departure from the film, giving Judy an extra bit of vulnerability that underlines her place in the story as the woman who undergoes the greatest transformation.
Allison Janney has a bit of a handicap as office manager Violet Newstead — Hilty and Block are both phenomenal singers, and Janney, while strong, is clearly more an actor-singer than the other way round. That said, she’s got the sheer charisma to sell the hell out of a number, and knocks her big number, “One of the Boys,” clear out of the ballpark. “9 to 5” isn’t going to make theater history, but it’s a highly enjoyable ride that I hope has a successful run.