The outward appearance of Dolly Parton costumes her philosophy, “I always just thought if you see somebody without a smile, give ’em yours.”
And so she does—with her voice, appearance, Tennessee vacation destinations and musical compositions. The latter is accessible in Lincolnshire through mid-October via Marriott Theatre’s current offering, Parton’s movie-made-musical, “9 to 5.”
Its 1980-set story centers on three women in the corporate secretarial pool of a boys’ club corporation. The hard working office manager, a new-on-the-job jilted wife and an objectified bombshell take advantage of an honest mistake to overthrow their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigoted, smarmy boss and make significant changes in their workplace. A full synopsis of the show may be found here.
Based on the 1980 hit movie of the same name, “9 to 5” ran on Broadway for about four months in 2009 and in a national tour and regionally since.
Critics of the book by Patricia Resnick and Parton’s music and lyrics are not overly kind. That’s in large part because stage treatment of corporate sexism deserves an update reflecting 23 years of advances while acknowledging there’s real work still to be done.
But while the show is just so 1980, what Parton says about herself and her “9 to 5” character Doralee Rhodes (Alexandra Palkovic) deserves to be applied to the whole of her musical: “There’s a heart beneath the boobs and a brain beneath the wig.”
Opening night at Marriott illustrated that. Kelli Cramer as hardworking Violet; Susan Moniz as overwhelmed Judy and Palkovic shine as the production’s leading trio. Holly Strauder steals scenes as office lush Margaret.
Local treatment of Parton’s songs demand they deserve another listen. Moniz’s voice in “I Just Might” and “Get Out and Stay Out” is top-flight. Palkovic knocks “Backwoods Barbie” out of the park. And Act 1 finale, “Shine Like the Sun” showed off the high energy, quality ensemble blend sadly missing from the first number and title song on opening night.
While any treatment of this material cannot break a “9 to 5” production out of its era, the Marriott creative team does its best.
Choreographer Matt Raftery and Costume Designer Nancy Missimi not only deserve onstage bows, they ought to be up there with Cramer, Monitz and Palkovic. The large ensemble choreography (22 in the cast) creatively steals the show. Kudos, too, to Director David H. Bell for keeping a lively pace.
In the end, patrons of “9 to 5” need to keep expectations in check. Fabulous singing and acting with stellar dance trump a dated story with a too-abrupt ending. No it’s not, “Les Miserables;” it isn’t meant to be.
It’s simply meant to offer a smile to those who need one, courtesy of Dolly Parton.
“9 to 5” runs through October 13 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire; tickets are $40-48 with student and senior discounts and dinner packages available. Parking is free. Tickets and information are available through the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847-634-0200 or online.
Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions.