The Lexington County Arts Association presents an enjoyable production of 9 to 5: The Musical, running through this weekend at the Village Square Theatre. With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, the musical is based on the 1980 film. The show explores the power of friendship in the struggle against workplace discrimination, as three unlikely allies band together to take revenge on a sexist boss and to revolutionize office life in the process. Audience members will recognize the familiar voice of Dolly Parton as the friendly, down-home guide through 9 to 5: The Musical.
Director Brandi Owensby, musical director John Norris, and producers Leslie Dellinger and Courtney Long are at the helm for this Village Square offering. A capable production team includes choreographers Wes Williams and Kaitlyn Yaworksi, technical director Shepherd Pinner, stage manager Aryel Toup, and costume designers Heidi Willard, Nancy Huffines, Gina Calvert, and Barbara Bise. Highlights of their achievements include the complex and humorous staging of a vengeance fantasy sequence, costumes that evoke character traits effectively, and simple sets that get the job done.
In the role of company veteran Violet, Janice Holbrook blends maternal empathy with a sardonic, no-nonsense demeanor. Her mentorship of the office newcomer Judy (Rachel Rizutti) builds a sincere connection that bolsters the emotional life of the show, while Rizutti’s convincing character development and lovely singing voice invite audiences to invest in Judy’s theatrical journey. As irrepressible “Backwoods Barbie” Doralee, Susie Gibbons overcomes stereotypes to craft a resonant portrayal of a savvy and resourceful woman. Audiences will savor the first glimpse of this trio’s combined strength as their powerful delivery of “I Just Might” revs up the show. The three women soar in the rallying cry “Shine Like the Sun.”
Andrew Coston plays Joe the accountant with sincerity and sweetness, sharing a particularly appealing vocal approach to “Let Love Grow.” Harrison Ayer commits to the role of sexist boss Franklin Hart, oozing cringe-worthy sleaze that makes skin crawl and stomachs churn. Robin Saviola brings humanity to Roz, the coworker who yearns for the man others condemn as a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” A large ensemble of employees generates a credible depiction of bleak misery in the office “bullpen” that transforms to hopeful empowerment in the second act’s workplace metamorphosis.
Uneven sound choices interfere with the performance at times. Cleaner sound design and less cumbersome set changes would benefit the production considerably, but these are minor quibbles in light of the enjoyable theatre experience provided by Village Square. At the matinee I attended, it became very clear that the audience appreciated the performance: Doralee’s threat to Hart (“change you from a rooster to a hen”) prompted an audience member’s spontaneous affirmation, “God bless country girls!”
9 to 5: The Musical uses humor and music to illuminate disturbing problems. While it might be tempting to write off the show’s central conflict as indicative of a different era, the play’s themes resonate today in immediate as well as global ways. While wrestling with uncomfortable social realities, viewers can tap their toes to charming songs and chuckle over unpretentious humor. Tough issues wrapped up in a sassy package? Thank you, Dolly Parton.
Performances will run through Sunday, January 26 (Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.). Ticket prices are $19.00 for adults and $15.00 for children and can be purchased at www.villagesquaretheatre.com or by calling the box office at 803-359-1436. Village Square Theatre is located in Lexington just off highway 378 at 105 Caughman Road. Parental guidance is appropriate for 9 to 5: The Musical because of adult situations and language.
~Melissa Swick Ellington