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In an impressive tribute to high-waisted pants and geometric excess, 9 to 5: The Musical sets the scene for a return to the late 1970s — in all its sexist glory — in the Citadel’s latest production onstage in the Maclab.
The rollicking musical — adapted from the popular 1980 movie of the same name starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda — delivers a satisfying dose of revenge even as it has audience members shaking their heads over its (mostly) antiquated antics. The blatant injustice! The backstabbing office politics! The boob jokes!
Yet despite the risk of comparison to a pet rock — cute in its time, but irrelevant today — 9 to 5 engages the audience with a raft of playful performances and a collection of heartwarming and bouncy tunes by Dolly Parton.
Directed by Vancouver’s Rachel Peake, the musical opens on Judy (played by Patricia Zentilli) as she negotiates the first day in her new job. She is revealed to lack any office skills, but supervisor Violet (Sharon Crandall) quickly assumes a protective role once she learns Judy has been dumped by her husband for a youngster named Mandi (“spelled with an i” moans Judy).
But Violet is not so warm with Dora-Lee (Julia McLennan), whom she has branded a big-breasted tart. It takes a crisis — whoops, Violet has accidentally dumped rat poison in the coffee of evil boss Franklin Hart (Juan Chioran) — to bring the women together as a fighting force.
With a uniformly strong cast, it’s hard to point to a stand-out performance, but Patricia Zentilli does a superb job highlighted by her gutsy and poignant rendition of Get Out and Stay Out, delivered when her ex comes crawling back. The entire cast nails a hilarious Disney-esque spoof with the tune Potion Notion, which sees Violet assume a Snow White costume while the critters of the Magic Kingdom frolic nearby. Stephanie Wolfe brings significant sparkle to the role of Margaret, the office lush. Andrew MacDonald-Smith charms in the role of Joe, the junior accountant in love with a senior staffer.
Though the musical is largely a lark, it draws on real-life drama for oomph; there is enough of a barbed hook to drive the narrative and fire up joy in the retaliation. Older audience members in particular will recall the days when female workers were inevitably passed over for lesser specimens who happened to be male. Lines like “because he has a family to support” and other specious excuses still have the power to rankle, along with Franklin Hart’s familiar combination of mendacity and gall. Costumes by Dana Osborne are deliciously extravagant and a constant reminder of where this show lives.
Opening night was an ebullient affair, made sweeter still by its triumph over a small COVID outbreak amongst the cast that forced a week’s delay for this production. I, for one, was also buoyed by the punchy performance of music director Janice Flower’s frisky all-female band. Oh, the joy of live music, real people and a good story.
9 to 5: The Musical
Who: Book by Patricia Resnick, music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, directed by Rachel Peake
Where: The Citadel, 9828 101 A Ave.
When: Through May 29
Tickets: Starting at $30 at citadeltheatre.com or the box office at 780-425-1820