Review: “9 to 5 The Musical”


David Allen

(L to R): Doralee (Allie Townsend), Violet (Glenna Murillo), and Judy (Rachelle Abbey) share fantasies of getting even with their chauvinistic boss in Foothill Music Theatre’s “9 to 5 The Musical,” performing March 1-18.

The multi-award winning Foothill Music Theatre brought another stellar production to life last week when it lifted the curtain on 9 to 5: The Musical. An adaptation of the film from 1980, 9 to 5 follows the journey of three vastly different women in strikingly similar positions, as they work together to overcome their sexist, chauvinistic boss and his obvious contempt for women in the workplace. The cozy Lohman Theatre gives the audience a chance to get up close to the production and see every intricacy of the cast’s actions while enjoying the live band performing music by eight-time Grammy Award winner Dolly Parton, who is featured in the original film herself.

Beginning with a series of numbers designed to introduce the cast, the audience learns that Judy Bernly (Rachelle Abbey) is a new employee for Consolidated Corporation, the business place where much of the play’s events happen. Judy is introduced as a young, recently divorced woman with no work experience, who is to come under the supervision of Violet Newstead (Glenna Murillo), a middle aged widow and mother who is the senior office manager. In one of the play’s first numbers, Around Here, the two actresses do an excellent job making the audience feel as if they too are being swept up in the chaos of the office, where Judy is constantly reminded that she “got no time to fool around, around here.”

Rachelle Abbey does a stellar job of conveying the emotion of a confused, overwhelmed new hire in this scene — her face shows a gamut of emotions, going from confused to overwhelmed, to determined without pause. Abbey’s ability to carry the emotion of the scene through her facial expressions and body language are second to none, and leave little for the audience to be forced to imagine. Not to be outdone, Murillo also carries herself perfectly through the scene, never dropping the image of an efficient, fast paced office manager while simultaneously leading the ensemble with her full voice.

Soon after, the audience is introduced to Doralee Rhodes (Allie Townsend) and Franklin Hart (Aaron Hurley) in a scene which articulates quite clearly the nature of Hart’s character. Hart, the president of Consolidated, demonstrates his true inner feelings for Doralee, who is his bombshell blonde secretary from Texas. In Here for You, the audience has a glance inside the mind of Franklin Hart, and how he views his secretary as little more than a pair of “double D’s.”

David Allen
The boss Franklin Hart (Aaron Hurley) has inappropriate fantasies about his hard-working secretary Doralee (Allie Townsend)

Not to let himself be outdone by the three female powerhouse leads, Hurley does a solid job singing and dancing, but most importantly never drops his attitude towards women. Even later in the musical, when Doralee confronts her boss on his treatment of her, he seems to enjoy her aggression, acting as if Doralee was a young child having an outburst over something ridiculous — all the way up until the end, Hurley never lets the audience think he’s anything other than a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

It is once all three ladies come together that the magic really happens. Act one closes with the girls having schemed and kidnapped their boss, coming together from their different backgrounds to stand in the face of workplace sexism. The finishing number, Shine Like the Sun, features all three women elevating each other and singing words of hope about how they will all “shine,” painting a bright picture for the second act.

All three women are phenomenal vocalists in their own right, and each could carry a production as the lead. When brought together, the characters they play are complementary, making up for each other’s weaknesses. In each of their performances, Townsend, Murillo, and Abbey elevate their co-stars to greater heights than they could have achieved alone.

Julia Thollaug, a student at Skyline Community College, and the girlfriend of a band member, voiced her own appreciation for the level of talent — “I feel like the book and script, the show itself was a bit weak, but the talent and the cast covered it well.”

The second act opened with Violet, Doralee, and Judy making changes around the company, after having trapped Hart in his own house. The office alcoholic, Margaret, who provides timely comic relief throughout the first act, is sent away to rehab as part of the girls’ plan to improve their office conditions.

Members of the cast all appear noticeably more enthusiastic and happy about working — even the men, who clearly don’t share the same level of sexist resentment as Hart. In fact, one of the first moments of act two is the song “One of the Boys,” in which Violet gets to become “one of the boys” in charge of running the office — an important milestone for her, as she had been passed over for a promotion earlier on in place of someone she trained.

Joe (Adam Cotugno) plays a critical role in the second act, with managing the fallout from Harts eventual escape from his house. Cotugno does an excellent job serving as a foil for Hart. Acting as a love interest for Violet, Joe demonstrates genuine compassion and patience with her — a refreshing contrast to the total disregard of women we see from Hart. Although to me, his presence seemed a bit weak, I thought Cotugno did an excellent job with the limited time he had.

Ultimately, the production closes on a positive note for the three protagonists, who find themselves in a much better work environment where they are much more respected. The second act left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, as it was significantly shorter than the first, but the content itself was in no way inferior. I would recommend anyone with the time go see 9 to 5: The Musical; the atmosphere and performance are excellent, and the constant humor leaves the audience fresh and happy even in the production’s more tense moments.

9 to 5: The Musical will be running through March 18th, with performances Thursdays at 7:30 p.m, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m, and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at Foothill College in the Lohman Theatre. More information and ticket options can be found here, and director Milissa Carey can be reached at [email protected] for those with comments or concerns.