Today I decided to combine my love of musical theater with my quest to spend more time around straight, single guys. Well, one out of two isn’t bad. I did see the new “9 to 5” musical, and enjoyed the hell out of a great “girl power” story.
This is a simple one. If you loved the movie, as I did, you will love the musical version of “9 to 5”. Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics, and there is a definite advantage to knowing the characters (and the experience) the way she does. While certain things are altered for time and staging, much of the original film and dialogue survives. It does take an adjustment to swing back to the mindset of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s with some of the concepts and songs feeling a little outdated, but once you make the adjustment the ride is pure enjoyment. The best alteration made to the original script is the addition of a love interest for Violet in the form of Joe (played charmingly by Andy Karl). Because it’s so strikingly similar to the film, it’s difficult not to compare the performances in the lead trio against their film counterparts. I’m happy to say that it did not take long for the leading ladies to make the parts their own. Based on the enthusiastic standing ovation at the end, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who responded that way.
I knew I was going to enjoy the cast. I saw Stephanie J. Block (who has show stopper moment in “Get Out and Stay Out”) and Megan Hilty (funny and vulnerable, particularly in her signature moment in “Backwoods Barbie”) in the lead roles in “Wicked”, so I knew that they were going to be top notch. I was pleasantly surprised by Allison Janney. While I loved her character on The West Wing, and have followed her work in films for years, I wasn’t quite convinced that this was going to work for her. While no one is ever going to cast her solely on the strength of her voice, she works her belting, character voice for all she’s worth. Luckily, the character of Violet requires a great comedic actress more than a “pretty” voice, and Allison is fearless and entirely successful.
My biggest surprise, in terms of the cast, was the outstanding work by Marc Kudisch in the part of Franklin Hart. He has an amazing voice, and works the sleaze to his advantage. The part is written as much more overtly despicable than the movie version, and Kudisch tackles it with seeming delight. Also winningly sycophantic is Kathy Fitzgerald’s Roz. Her skilled performance (and perfectly written songs) makes her sympathetic in a way that the film’s character never was.
The show is doing its try-outs here in Los Angeles through October 19th at the Ahmanson Theatre. From here, I believe it is going to New York, or is at least a good candidate to do so.
Too much fun to miss!