‘9 to 5: The Musical’ speaks to a new generation

November 24, 2018

People get ready!

That cultural touchstone of the 1980s, “Nine to Five,” is a-coming.

The musical version of that classic film, a fast-paced whirlwind of humor, empowerment, soul-satisfying revenge and toe-tapping, oh-so-on-the-mark, tunes takes over the Forum Theatre, Penn State, New Kensington, for three performances Nov. 2-4.

As cast member Cassidy Milberger of Tarentum puts it, “I mean honestly, how can you not love Dolly Parton?”

“9 to 5: The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, is based on the seminal 1980 hit movie, which starred office co-workers Parton as Doralee Rhodes; Lily Tomlin as Violet Newstead; Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly and Dabney Coleman as (can we get some boos please) full of himself, sexist, boss Franklin Hart Jr.

The Rolodex era

Set in the late 1970s, it is the story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era and billed as “outrageous, thought-provoking and even a little romantic.”

Pushed to the boiling point, three female coworkers concoct a plan to get even with Franklin Hart Jr., who also happens to be an egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.

Violet, Judy and Doralee live out their wildest fantasy -- giving their boss the boot and taking over control.

“What I love about ‘9 to 5’ is the fact that humor is used to make prevalent issues in today’s society more tangible for audiences,” says Milberger, who has the Parton role.

Relatable role

She sees a lot of herself in Doralee in the sense that they share all of those qualities and try to emulate a certain sense of positivity and humor.

Kayleigh Ventrone of Delmont, a communications major at Seton Hill University, appreciates that the musical is “wild, fast-paced, and utterly hilarious, while still having a fantastic message and some heartfelt moments.”

She is playing Fonda’s Judy Bernly. “My favorite part about Judy is the fact that she can remain so hopeful even after the world has completely turned on her,” she explains. “I like to joke that Judy and I are the same person, which is why I was so drawn to her.”

Won’t want to miss

This is a production that you won’t want to miss, says director James Baker of Plum, adjunct professor at Point Park University, who also is technical director for the Greensburg Salem School District musicals.

“I appreciate how relevant the show is today and that it is about empowering those to stand up for what is right and to be authentic leaders,” he says.

The cast consists of Penn State students, community members and high school students. “Branching out into the community is really important to me because it allows others to experience what our campus has to offer,” Baker says.

Bringing mean boss to life

Rory Farester-Hohl of Cowanshannock Township, Armstrong County, a sophomore civil engineering major at Penn State, is enjoying the challenge of bringing Hart Jr. to life in this production.

“I felt it would be interesting to try and portray someone with a demeanor like his,” he says. “There isn’t much that goes through his head that isn’t driven by sex, power, money, and his own hubris.”

No exaggeration

Anna Gergerich of Point Breeze isn’t exaggerating when she says “9 to 5” is a show she has done before, “and it’s a show I’ll want to do again and again for the rest of my life.”

In an industry where there are so many talented ladies, it’s refreshing to have a story written by women for women, she says. “There’s a deeper sincerity and heart to the story that keeps you captivated throughout the journey,” she adds.

Gergerich is Violet Newstead, the senior supervisor at company and ring leader of the trio, portrayed by Tomlin in the film and Allison Janney on Broadway. “I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill,” she acknowledges. She agrees that the story is “completely relatable” today, shining a light on still relevant cultural issues.

“It still has valuable lessons to teach in 2018. It’s great to see how far we’ve come, but it also keeps us in check with how far we still have to go,” Gergerich says. And even if you don’t directly relate to a specific character, “you’re still rooting for all of them, except Mr. Hart, of course,” she adds.

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