By Anna Krelovich
Bathrobe-clad employees groggily walk onstage to the sound of incessant buzzing, slamming their alarms off and getting ready for work; as they brush their teeth and comb their hair they complain about another dull day, but McLean High School’s production of “9 to 5” is anything but.
Based on the groundbreaking hit 1980 movie of the same name, “9 to 5: The Musical” features music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, star of the 1980 film, and a book by Patricia Resnick. The musical debuted in Los Angeles in 2008, opening on Broadway in April the next year. Despite receiving 15 Drama Desk Award nominations and 4 Tony Award nominations, the show closed less than a year after opening in September of 2009.
“9 to 5” follows three female coworkers, Violet, Doralee, and Judy, as they are pushed to their breaking point with their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss, Mr. Hart. Performing only slightly illegal actions, the trio seize control of the office and give it a dream makeover, increasing productivity and empowering women everywhere.
Haley Rose portrayed Violet Newstead, the fed up single working mom routinely passed up for a promotion in the boys’ club office. She was determinedly strong-willed and ambitious armed with sarcastically witty quips, specifically in her showstopping tap number “One of the Boys.”
Southern bombshell Doralee Rhodes was played by Erica Bass, whose Texas twang perfectly filled Dolly Parton’s cowgirl boots. Bass’ gregarious presence drew all attention to her, while her feisty fortitude proved she was no-nonsense. Country songs like “Backwoods Barbie” and “Cowgirl’s Revenge” showcased vulnerability and astounding vocal ability, all while maintaining her southern drawl.
New-girl to the office Judy Bernly was portrayed by powerhouse Abby Covington. Having never worked in an office before, Covington is initially insecure and helpless, but as she bonds with Violet and Doralee she finds a new strength and power, becoming a force to be reckoned with. She finally seizes control of her life after standing up to her ex-husband Dick (Eli Wassertzug) in the incredible power ballad “Get Out and Stay Out.” Rose, Bass, and Covington worked perfectly together, crafting a strong relationship between their three characters, and their voices blended beautifully in songs like “Change It.”
Franklin Hart Jr., the boss of the office and routine sexual predator was portrayed by the hilarious Benji Harris.
Harris was arrogant and self-absorbed, preying on his secretary Doralee. His ridiculous, over-the-top comedy elevated his pompous attitude to new heights, specifically in the hysterical, if a little creepy, “Here for You,” complete with hip-swiveling and tongue-waggling. Despite Mr. Hart’s conceited haughtiness, loyally devoted to him is Roz, played by Abby Comey. Her unrequited love drives her to extreme lengths to win Mr. Hart’s affection, and her astoundingly incredible voice shined in the side-splitting “Heart to Hart.”
The stage was simply set with a yellow striped wall and set of double doors, but grand moving desks brought places like the elevator, Mr. Hart’s office, and the women’s desks to life. Projections on either side of the stage added new depth to each setting, from a bright cityscape while in the office to falling rose petals during romantic ballads. Late 70’s typewriters populated the stage, and small details like the shift from drab to colorful folders allowed the props to shine.
The audience leaves ruminating that if they don’t like something about their life, they need to “Change It,” but with talented actors, astonishing vocalists and an inspiring message of female empowerment, McLean High School’s production of “9 to 5” may have inspired change all on its own.