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North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre (NRACT) just opened its 2015/16 season with a production of 9 to 5: The Musical, a show based on the popular 20th Century Fox movie that gave a comic twist to 1970s office politics. The musical, first produced on Broadway in 2009, features music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick.
Parton herself narrates 9 to 5: The Musical, appearing in video on a screen upstage center at the open and close of each act. This screen also provides essential projections of graphics, locales, and cast names, making itself an integral part of the set. Full orchestration recordings produced by Musical Theatre International provided musical accompaniment for the show's 14 songs. Each actor was miked, so the accompaniment didn't overpower the singers; all voices could be heard and understood. It was surprising and encouraging that no mic caused a problem opening night, a feat that is rare in musical theatre!
9 to 5: The Musical requires an 18-member cast, which makes it a bit tight on NRACT's tiny stage. The cast made a go of it, with smooth set changes that didn't detract from the show and dance numbers that filled the stage without crowding it. Director/choreographer James Ilsley has managed to fit these folks and their desks into the set so that we are given only the cramped quarters of a growing business, not the squeezed-out dimensions of a too-big production.
9 to 5: The Musical depicts the trials and tribulations of three particular secretaries at Consolidated Industries, run by president Mr. Franklin Hart, Jr. (Bill Andrews). Our trio of protagonists consists of Violet Newstead (Mary Beth Hollmann), who runs one of the divisions at Consolidated; Doralee Rhodes (AC Donohue), secretary to Mr. Hart; and Judy Bernly (Mary Reilly), a woman who has never worked at a real job a day in her life! Violet takes Judy under her wing, determined to get her through and show her the ropes, which includes introducing each member of her division and just how to deal with them. She introduces Judy to Doralee, followed by the caveat, "we don't like her." The reason for this is the rumor, untrue but rampant, that Doralee is sleeping with her boss. All this exposition is relayed in the first two (full company) numbers, the opening "9 to 5," and the quickly-following "Around Here."
Doralee is quite efficient and adept at handling Mr. Hart, a man who lusts in his heart for his secretary, despite being married to a woman already too much for him. Doralee finds out that the reason everyone is so mean to her is because of the rumor of the affair, which was started by Mr. Hart himself. Mr. Hart's number "Here for You" conveys his lust for Doralee and cements his standing as the villain of the show. Doralee laments the situation in "Backwoods Barbie," then clears the air with Violet and Judy, sharing her struggles about being a woman in a man's world. Meanwhile, we learn of another woman who is Hart's eyes and ears on the floor, his assistant Roz Keith (Natalie Turgeon), who is secretly in love with her boss ("Heart to Hart").
We quickly come to like and respect our trio of ladies; they seem to deal with the circumstances proudly, and they sing like gangbusters. A quartet of songs relays what each of our heroines would like to do to Mr. Hart: Judy would shoot him ("The Dance of Death"); Doralee would rope him like cattle ("Cowgirl's Revenge"); and Violet would poison the man ("Potion Notion"). Each of them would free Consolidated of the beast, and free the working women of his tyranny ("Joy to the Girls"). But when Violet accidentally puts rat poison in Mr. Hart's coffee, things come to a head, and the gals find they must confront Mr. Hart head-on. The audience ate up the Act I finale, "Shine Like the Sun," a full ensemble number that gave the leading ladies another chance to show their considerable pipes.
Each of our heroines is an NRACT veteran and a strong performer in area theatre. AC Donohue has covered the NC map, with performances at the Opera House Theatre of Wilmington, Temple Theatre, and Raleigh Little Theatre, where she earned a 2014 Cantey Award for her role as Elvira in Blythe Spirit. Mary Beth Hollmann has split her time between NRACT and the Cary Players, including roles in Nunsense and The Vagina Monologues. Mary Reilly comes to NC from the great white North, where she has performed in shows such as The Secret Garden and The Music Man. In 9 to 5: The Musical, each gal seized her individual opportunity to shine. And when they teamed up, such as in Act I's "I Just Might," the crowd was all the more pleased. The Act II songs "Change it," "One of the Boys," and "Get Out and Stay Out" were fulfilling for their performances as well as the plotlines they developed. Excellent!
9 to 5: The Musical has turned out to be a fine foil for NRACT; they did a super job of putting it on their small stage and really gave the audience their money's worth. With three divine singer/actors as the protagonists and a strong and supportive ensemble cast, 9 to 5: The Musical gave a terrific night's entertainment. Opening night was a sellout and word of mouth will get tickets flying out the door, so make your reservations now.
9 to 5: The Musical continues through Sunday, July 26. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.