Chicago Theatre Review
Dolly Parton’s Takin’ Care of Business
9 to 5, the Musical – Marriott Theatre
To paraphrase Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” that the Marriott Theatre can be counted on for, not only professional quality productions, but for presenting a more intimate version of the Broadway original. Of course, this is partly due to the theatre’s in-the-round stage, seating the audience only inches away from the performers. But Marriott directors capitalize on such close proximity and cast only the most talented actors/singers/dancers, encouraging them to be more than just presentational. A Marriott audience sees the play on the actors‘ faces, thus creating the illusion of the first time every time. Excellent singers, skilled dancers, yes; but a cast who truly inhabit their characters making even the most familiar stories blaze with new life.
Such is the Marriott’s late Summer offering. Most everyone has enjoyed the 1980’s film version, which starred Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It was one of the first movies to celebrate girl power within the male-dominated world of big business. The story of three female workers who tire of their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a boss and decide to kidnap and hold him captive in his own home, while making progressive changes in company policies, was a runaway hit when it opened. Ms. Parton, who starred in the film, and also wrote and sang its catchy, popular title tune, partnered with Patricia Resnick, one of the original screenwriters, to bring their hit film to the stage. The resulting musical is a mixed blessing.
The dated story can be simply enjoyed as an escapist musical or viewed as a “look how far we’ve come” tale. In New York, Resnick’s book looked choppy and cinematic, but director David H. Bell, working closely with Marriott’s excellent technical team, has remedied this problem for his production. Whereas Broadway sacrificed characters for overpowering scenery and special effects, Bell’s production, thanks to designer Thomas M. Ryan, is scenically simpler. Bell even uses his ensemble as props and furnishings with the result being delightfully clever.
Ms. Parton’s score (aside from her hit title song) is not as memorable as some, but it’s always cheerful, foot-tapping fun. Some songs, however, like the touching “Backwoods Barbie,” the country-gospel infused “Shine Like the Sun” and the duet, “Let Love Grow” can stand on their own.
But, in Marriott tradition, it is this talented cast, coupled with Bell’s creative direction and Matt Raftery’s energetic choreography, that infuses this production. Desks, typewriter stands and chairs roll on and off the stage like rush hour traffic on the Dan Ryan. Raftery’s stylized ’80’s dance moves surprisingly blend with scenic changes like a well-oiled machine. Backed by Patti Garwood’s superb rock orchestra, absolutely every single cast member dances and sings; and Nancy Missimi’s creativity blossoms in an endless array of period pieces, particularly her Disney-inspired fairy tale fantasy costumes.
There are no weak links in this cast. One of Chicago’s favorite leading ladies, Susan Moniz’s Judy journeys from a shy and inexperienced divorcee to a strong woman capable of telling her ex-husband to “Get Out and Stay Out,” one of the production’s best numbers. In addition to a flawlessly trained voice, Ms. Moniz uses her expressive face to say so much more than her words. Alexandra Palkovic is sweet and driven as Doralee, the Texan secretary who wants to be known as more than just a pretty face and sexy body. This girl can belt like no one, and she sparkles like a diamond in every scene. Kelli Cramer (who resembles a young Kathy Bates) makes a welcome return to the Marriott stage as Violet, the woman whose hard work goes unrecognized, passed-over for promotions in favor of lesser-skilled members of the Boys Club. This talented actor is the glue that holds this production together, demonstrating her musical talent in numbers like “One of the Boys.” Other standouts include James Moye as smarmy boss Franklin Hart, Jr., Marya Grandy as Hart’s prim, righthand gal Roz, Ben Jacoby as Violet’s junior accountant love interest Joe and the always excellent Holly Stauder, hilarious as the deadpan, boozy Margaret.
Jane Austen also wrote that “Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” She might’ve been referring to the comeuppance that the misogynistic Mr. Hart receives by the end of this frothy musical. But however fizzy and fun this musical plays, it’s Marriott’s incomparable casting and truthful acting that makes this production “shine like the sun.”
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented Wednesdays through Sundays, August 21-October 13 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL.
Tickets are available by calling 847-634-0200 or by visiting www.MarriottTheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions may be found at www.theatreinchicago.com.