Workin' woman's blues
“9 to 5 the Musical”
When: Now through July 17, 7:30 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
Where: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (345 Washington St., St. Paul)
Cost: Range from $27-$75
Who says feminism can’t be fun? “9 to 5,” the touring musical making a stop at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts this week, puts macho pigs in their place with a wink and a smile, all while singing Dolly Parton songs.
There’s no doubt that the plot of “9 to 5” is rooted in a sitcom-like cheesiness — three hardworkin’ gals living out their fantasy to overthrow their tyrannically masculine boss, abounding with laughs and cheers. But its redeeming factor is in the songs. All penned by Parton herself, the tunes are packed full of Parton’s trademark Dixie charm, and they have a way of winning you over even when the plot points do not.
“[Parton’s music] is a natural fit for the stage if you think about it,” Mamie Parris, who plays Judy Bernly in the production, said. “The whole point of musical theater is to get to a point in the play where the emotions are so intense that people have to burst into song essentially ... Every song tells a story, which is the goal of musical theater.”
The 1980 film starring Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin — the basis of the musical — was a moderately controversial political statement at the time. Consider where feminism was then and where it is now (an entirely different “Wave”-length). Also consider what Jane Fonda represented at the time: a rebellious hippie out to destroy all things pure and holy about conformist culture. But the hard-hitting political statement might seem outdated in the 2011 climate — something that didn't go lost on the cast and crew..
“For our purposes, we’re not trying to make such a statement. It’s more about the entertainment, which I think is appropriate for nowadays,” Parris said.
Having traveled all over the U.S. over the past nine months, the play has garnered mixed reviews. While overall reactions have been encouraging, critics didn’t exactly feel the magic at the production’s stop in New York.
“I really thought the show got a bad rap in New York City,” James A. Rocco, The Ordway’s VP of theatrical programming, said. “I thought the show was completely entertaining and buoyant. And it was so filled with Dolly Parton, and just like Dolly Parton it was impossible not to love it.”
While Parton’s girl power ditties are undoubtedly the biggest draw to the play, not far behind are the good tidings it sends you. To see these workplace issues as obsolete and almost old-fashioned actually feels refreshing.
“It kinda makes you go, ‘Oh my gosh, if we can tackle these obstacles in 30 years, I should be afraid of nothing,’” Parris said. “It’s really amazing how much the world has changed and how much further we can go, but we have a running start.”