The 1970s iconic movie “9 to 5” starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin incited the original #metoo campaign. Three women are patronized, harassed and demeaned by a male boss. They unite to teach him a lesson and shake up the workplace. Even if you haven’t seen this beloved comedy, you’ve probably heard Dolly sing the spunky “9 to 5” office anthem. Parton (music and lyrics) teamed up with Patricia Resnick (book) to create a musical staged version of the 70s film.
Firebrand follows ups its fierce Lizzie debut with a playful flashback. The feminist theatre company honor the pioneers of workplace sexual harassment in this newest offering. Artistic Director and Director Harmony France skillfully navigates her talented, hard-working ensemble. Not only do they sing and dance, they continually go up and down a flight of stairs- most in high heels. Scenic Designer Eleanor Kahn creates a a bi-level set to reinforce the hierarchical, patriarchal stance between boss and employees. Intentional or not, watching the ladies kick up their high-heels on the stairs fortifies the hard climb to break the glass ceiling.
The lead trio perfectly channel the Jane-Lily-Dolly dynamic. The befuddled Sara Reinecke (Judy), wise-cracking Anne Sheridan Smith (Violet), and sassy Sharriese Hamilton (Doralee) showcase plenty of moxie and beautiful harmony in their mapcap revenge plot. The ladies play and sing together with authentic sisterhood. The target of their discontent is Scott Danielson (Hart) who carries off a##hole boss with flourish. In a show-stealing solo, office narc Veronica Garza (Roz) hits all the right notes with her vocal and comedic capabilities.
The shows starts with a musical number orchestrated by Andra Velis-Simon (music direction) and Kasey Alfonso (choreography). Although the musicians mingling in with the ensemble adds a festive touch, it also adds volume. The theatre is small. Initially, the band overpowers the singers. Once they are settled on the sidelines, the band to singer ratio was more in tune. Of course, I wasn’t in the seats next to the band. I’m not sure of the enjoyment level of that section of the audience.
Firebrand picks a fun romp for its second show. I watched it remembering the olden days of typewriters and carbon paper and thinking ‘we’ve come a long way, baby!’. The technology advancements in the forty years since the movie are astounding. Unfortunately, the same is not true of women in the workplace. Wages, double standards, male abuse of power, and the devastating HRC defeat are all present day, painful realities. The recent #metoo initiative is a long awaited step in the right direction but it is long journey to equity. Meanwhile, 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL is a frothy, fun outing for feminists, young and old. WARNING: it’ll be days before you stop humming the song ‘9 to 5’.
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee
Based on the 20th Century Fox Picture
Music & Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Book by Patricia Resnick
Directed by Artistic Director Harmony France
Music Direction by Andra Velis-Simon
Choreography by Kasey Alfonso
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Thru May 20th
Tickets are currently available at firebrandtheatre.org.
Production photos by Emily Schwartz
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