This is the review running Friday in my “Culture Cues” column in FLORIDA TODAY’s TgIF print and online section. Be sure to click onto that section here to get up to date information on this production and other entertainment throughout Brevard.”
Titusville Playhouse launches its new season with a rollicking, high-spirited and thoroughly fun production of “9 to 5 the Musical.”
The musical opened 2009 on Broadway. Written by Patricia Resnic with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, it was based on the 1980 movie. The story brings us back to 1979 – when closest women could get to workplace equality was to wear shoulder pads. In it, three women suffer constant harassment by their male chauvinistic pig of a boss. Frustration and wish fulfillment combine into the women joining forces to take sweet revenge.
The movie succeeded in great part due to the snappy talent and chemistry of Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman, The Titusville Playhouse production does the same by casting some sensational amateur and professional talent into the roles.
Stephan Jones, a professional Orlando actor who has a long list of critically acclaimed dramatic and musical roles to his name, treats us with his impeccable comic talent in the role of Mr. Hart, the boss. Patrons will remember him last season as gladiator Miles Gloriosus in Titusville’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Jones embroiders his role with exquisite detail and energy. His “Here for You” in which he fantasizes about Doralee, his sexy secretary, could be the broadest comic bit ever on Titusville’s stage.
Melinda Lebo cranks out a full-bodied and oh-so sweet voiced portrayal of buxom Doralee. Lebo brings out a tender sweetness to the role as well. Her “Backwoods Barbie” is splendid.
Mindy Ward is Judy, the displaced homemaker whose ex-husband runs off with a younger woman. It’s fun watching her character evolve from naive to gutsy. Her “Get Out and Stay Out” number is a real standout.
Shelle Waller finds a strong core to Violet, the capable, level-headed woman continually passed over for promotion. Like Lebo and Ward, Waller treats the audience to some fine singing. Her “One of the Boys” number resonates with sass. She”s also very sweet in “Let Love Grow” with Joe (John Bradshaw), the young man smitten by her.
While you may not remember who played the movie version of Roz, Mr. Hart’s tattle-telling assistant, you won’t forget the Titusville actress in that role. In fact, Traci McGough nearly steals the show with one gutsy, hysterical “Heart to Hart” number in which she fantasizes about being with her boss.
The visuals in this production are very well designed and smart. There are many electric fast scene changes with a large chorus, so the “legs” which Jay Bleakney designed, work very well both functionally and decoratively. Lighting designer Philip Lupo uses those legs smartly by flooding them with colors evocative of the time and mood.
And, kudos to choreographer Sarah Sexton, whose simple dance moves create just enough backdrop and interest without upstaging the action.
But, really, this is one oddly constructed musical. It rather blends stage and screen by beginning with a projection of Dolly Parton setting up the given circumstances by talking about the characters and what they want. It ends with her giving an epilogue. This is not a director’s decision — it’s the way the musical is actually constructed.
If anyone can make sense out of such a peculiar concept, it’s director Steven Heron, who continues to prove that Titusville Playhouse both deserves our interest and our respect.
The musical runs through Sept. 23. It performs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays a the Emma Parrish Theatre, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $18 to $20 general admission. There are $2 discounts for military, students and seniors 60 and older. All tickets subject to a $1.95 service fee. Call 321-268-1125 or visit www.titusvilleplayhouse.com.