By Rosemary Fetter
Most women who worked in the corporate environment in the 1980s can relate to the lively musical, 9 to 5, now playing at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center. Based on a 20th Century Fox movie featuring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 tells the story of three working women who become friends and manage to wrench control of the company from their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a boss, Franklin Hart. When the movie was released in 1980, mistreatment of women in the workplace was becoming a hot topic. It’s interesting to note how much some things have changed in the past 30-odd years, and how little some things ever change.
As usual for Town Hall Arts productions, the cast and Director Christopher Willard do an amazing job, maximizing use of a relatively small theater. The show features Margie Lamb as Violet Newstead, a bright, hard-working widow who has been employed by the company for several years but never gets promoted because the sexist CEO always favors males in management positions. He also feels it is right to take credit for her work. Obnoxious and condescending, Hart is hated by his female workers except his cloying (and hilarious) assistant Roz Keith played by Jona Alonza.
Alison Mueller is wonderful as Doralee Rhodes, a Dolly Parton look-alike, constantly fending off unwanted sexual attentions from Hart, who tells everyone that she is his mistress. All the women in the office avoid her, and she can never understand why. Lisa Finnerty plays a nervous Judy Bernly, a recent divorcee with no work experience who is terrified by a Xerox machine and befuddled by an answering system. The men in the production include Seth Caikowski, outrageously funny as Hart, Carter Edwin Smith as Joe (Judy’s ex-husband) and T.J. Doyle Jr. as Dwayne, Doralee’s husband.
When Judy, Violet and Doralee become friends, they have a girls night of commiserating, try out some pot and fantasize about sending Hart to the great beyond. However, when Violet mistakenly puts rat poison in Hart’s coffee (the yellow Splenda box looks like the yellow rat poison box) Hart accuses her of attempted murder and threatens to have them all thrown in jail. They conspire to keep him a prisoner in his own home while they overhaul the company. Among many priceless moments, one gem sparkles when country-Western Doralee finds out what Hart has been saying about her and takes out her pistol. There are also a lot of laughs when fast-thinking Violet poses as a surgeon in the hospital where she thinks Hart’s body has been taken.
In general, the music in 9 to 5 is toe tapping, the dancing terrific, the dialogue snappy and the ensemble top-notch. It makes for a great evening or afternoon’s entertainment.