Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Parton my caution

It's been years, maybe decades, since I've seen the 1980 comedy 9 to 5, about three working women who turn the tables on their odious boss. But I remember enough to know that it was smart and hilarious, with great performances from Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. They made the movie memorable.

Of course I'm excited that the musical version, with songs by Parton, starts previews at Broadway's Marquis Theatre on March 24. I'm excited about every Broadway show, even the ones I know I probably won't get to see, even the ones that are just at the embryonic rumor stage and may never see the light of day.

But after being disappointed by some recent screen to stage efforts - I'm talking about you, Young Frankenstein and Cry-Baby - my optimism is a little tempered with caution this time around. Don't worry, it's not that I'm getting jaded or cynical. I haven't lost my wide-eyed sense of wonder when I walk through Times Square looking up at the giant billboards and posters advertising Broadway shows. And of course if I get the chance, I'd love to see 9 to 5.

It's just that the movie had three terrific actresses with very different personalities and talents playing three very distinct roles. In the musical, Allison Janney will play Tomlin's part, Stephanie J. Block is taking on Fonda's role and Megan Hilty will play Parton's role. I know Janney from the movies, but I wasn't a fan of The West Wing, so I never saw her on that tv series. Marc Kudisch will be their boss, a role played on screen by Dabney Coleman.

While I've heard of Block and Hilty, I've never seen them perform. And that's okay. Broadway is my first exposure to most of the actors I see on stage. I'd never heard of anyone in the cast of Spring Awakening before I saw it. Except for David Hyde Pierce, I'd never heard of anyone in Curtains. And I loved both of them. One of the best parts of seeing a show on Broadway is discovering all of these new performers.

But let's face it, fans of the movie who go see the musical are going to make the comparison. I'm not saying that Janney, Hilty and Block have to deliver cookie-cutter performances of their film counterparts. Of course I don't expect that. I realize the musical will be different, and they absolutely should make those roles their own. I simply don't know enough about the trio to say whether they'll be as funny, as memorable.

So this time around, I'm excited - but with a note of caution.

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