Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Have fun working: "9 to 5" at SMT!

Natalie Moe as Roz in 9 to 5 (Jeff Carpenter)

9 to 5
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through March 13, 2016

9 to 5, the musical based on the hugely popular 1980 movie starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, is now performing at Seattle Musical Theatre. Their production is fun, peppy and with a solid tongue-in-cheek atmosphere. There are also several stand-out talents among a solid cast.

The musical had a fairly short run on Broadway in 2009 and came to Seattle on tour in 2010 (with our homegrown talent Ryah Nixon understudying the Doralee role). The songs, including the hit wonder 9 to 5, all written by Dolly Parton, are fun but not significantly successful. The entire effort seems tailor made for regional and high school productions, with a strong feminist message. Young women, in particular, might feel encouraged and supported to reflect on how far we have come from the setting of the movie, a sort of 1970s-ish male-dominated business culture.

Three office workers, Judy (Melissa Fleming), Violet (Jeannette LeGault) and Doralee (Jasmine Jean Sim), sick of their CEO Mr. Hart (Jeff Church), accidentally find themselves kidnapping him and keeping him hostage while making changes they have dreamed of in the office. The musical version sticks in a “love” interest for Violet (Joe, played by Adam Minton), which might please some cougars out there. The women have to keep running interference with Roz (Natalie Anne Moe) who dotes on Mr. Hart.

Since this is a comedy, of course it all ends up fine and no one goes to jail or gets hurt. And the empowerment of working women everywhere is decreed.

The standouts are Fleming and Sim, who will most certainly get chances at other mainstage musical theater companies in town in short order. Minton, newish to our area a couple of years ago, continues to impress. The opportunity that SMT presents to new or new-to-us talent, so that they get chances to star in musicals and advance their career, is exactly why SMT has been so important to the musical theater community.  Fleming and Sim have great voices and are fun to watch, though Fleming needs to curb her tendency toward faking emotions – the audience can always see it! The best comedy is usually played straight.

Jessica Low did a good job of directing and a better job of choreography. Her choreography of Roz’s Heart to Hart was astonishingly “adult” and a lot of blushing fun. Moe makes Roz almost likable in her love for Hart.

The costumes by Rachel Wilkie were quite terrific, in period and colorful. The set design, by Thomas Kouyeas, had some challenges to overcome (multiple locations, a way to hang Mr. Hart – easy to manage in a movie but much harder on stage), but it was overly color-blocked and got in the way of the viewer paying attention to the actors.

The band, music directed by Brandon Peck, had some superb musicians, and the wind section was particularly able. Since this iconic music has a lot of horn, that’s crucial. They did great.

This is a fun, family-friendly show, and perhaps an easy introduction to women’s history in business for children who don’t realize how hard it has been for women to succeed on their merits, even in recent times.

For more information, go to www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org or call 206-363-2809.