Gratuitous Violins rating: *** out of ****
Before I saw 9 to 5, I knew that New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley had written a pretty scathing review. After seeing it, I went back and reread what he wrote - he called 9 to 5 a "gaudy, empty musical."
I know that theatre fans can disagree and those passionate debates/arguments make the discussion interesting. But wow, did we see the same show?
I enjoyed 9 to 5 tremendously - it made me laugh and I think the story would resonate with anyone - male or female - who's ever felt unappreciated or mistreated on the job or passed over because they weren't "one of the boys."
Now, it's been years since I've seen the 1980 movie 9 to 5, - in fact, I probably haven't watched it since 1980. So I don't know how closely Patricia Resnick's book about three women trying to get the goods on their sexist boss hews to her screenplay but I'm guessing it's pretty close.
I loved Allison Janney as Violet Newstead, the sharp office manager who keeps things running but never gets credit for it. While I've seen her in a few movie roles, I only watched The West Wing a couple of times, so this really was my first introduction to the four-time Emmy winner and I thought she was terrific.
Stephanie J. Block is funny as the timid Judy Bernly, who's nervous about reentering the work force after a messy divorce. As the well-endowed and outgoing Doralee Rhodes, Megan Hilty is doing a Dolly Parton impression - but it's a darn fine Dolly Parton impression and I liked it.
And Marc Kudisch is great as the unscrupulous, womanizing boss Franklin Hart Jr. It must be a physically demanding role, too, because Hart spends much of the show in some pretty uncomfortable circumstances but Kudisch handles it well.
Speaking of Dolly Parton, I really enjoyed her score. Of course the title song, written for the movie, is great and I'm not sure there's anything else that's quite as memorable and catchy. But I liked Janney's big number, "One of the Boys," and the three women in their Act I finale, "Shine Like the Sun."
The one thing that disappointed me a bit was Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography. I admired his Tony-winning work for In the Heights, which was so vibrant and exciting. But here, it just seemed a bit generic, nothing special.
For me, movie-to-musical adaptations have been a mixed bag. Some, like Hairspray, I think are brilliant and some, like Young Frankenstein, have left me sitting there wondering what everyone else found so amusing.
Others are in the middle - maybe not groundbreaking but thoroughly enjoyable. And for me, 9 to 5 is in that category. I had a great seat - third row on the aisle, left orchestra. I wanted to sit back and have fun - and I did.
Sadly, 9 to 5 will close Sept. 6 but the producers are planning a tour beginning in 2010.