Strong cast, choreography boost NSMT’s ‘9 to 5’

BEVERLY — North Shore Music Theatre‘s “9 to 5: The Musical” is based on the very successful 1980 movie “9 to 5” that grossed $103 million and starred Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
The musical, with music and lyrics by Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, was less successful; it had a modest run on Broadway in 2009, garnering four Tony nominations and 15 Drama Desk nominations, followed by a national tour.

         George Dvorsky and Shayla Orborn in a scene from   
“9 to 5:  The Musical” Photo: Paul Lyden

Parton’s fingerprints and even her narrative voice are all over the show. Musical Theater 101 says that when you’re putting together a show, go with what works, and Parton, with a fortune estimated at $450 million, has a lot of experience in knowing what works. Her score in “9 to 5” is surprisingly spunky, featuring bouncy country and pop tunes, liberal doses of the title tune and even a few nicely-crafted ballads.
Here NSMT has shown the musical in its most favorable light, thanks to a strong emsemble cast led by Dee Hoty, who starred in the first national tour of the show as Violet Newstead, and has stepped in for the injured Lucie Arnaz to reprise the role on short notice.
It is 1980, and Violet is a widow with a teenage son who has been continually passed over for promotions at Consolidated Industries. She is justifiably angry, but she needs the job.
Judy Bernly (Holly Davis) is going through a rough divorce after her husband left her for a 19-year-old, and has found it rough re-entering the working world.
Shayla Orborn is Doralee Rhodes, playing the Parton role as a Southern belle and secretary to Hart whose Barbie doll exterior has everyone thinking she’s sleeping with the boss. Her “Backwoods Barbie” is an obvious autobiographical tune by Parton, whose bustiness and big hair invited the kind of leering directed at Rhodes.
NMST had the good sense to employ as the director the nonpareil choreographer Richard Stafford, who has shown his chops on adapting choreography from the proscenium stage to the in-the-round configuration in past NSMT productions such as “Swing,” “The King and I” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” His high-octane production numbers such as “Shine like the Sun” keep the energy level high throughout.
Longtime NSMT favorite George Dvorsky, who showed he was a really good sport by going all the way in “The Full Monty,” is over-the-top as the villainous Franklin Hart Jr, the misogynist, adulterous, lying, cheating boss at Consolidated. He’s so nasty, he could be his own country song.
Who doesn’t dream of getting rid of a bad boss? Here he takes turns being humiliated by Hoty and Co. in three fantasy sequences in which the women indulge their own murderous fantasies in how they’d off Hart if they had a chance; at one point he’s even branded on the backside in the “Cowgirl’s Revenge” number.
The show at times skirts the edges of good taste, but with a wink and a nod; I didn’t see any children in the audience at Wednesday night’s show.

Kathy St. George as Roz Keith in NSMT’s ‘9 to 5.’ Photo: Paul Lyden

Kathy St. George is Roz Keith, who doubles as Hart’s assistant and a spy on her co-workers. You are dead and buried if you’re not howling with laughter as St. George exhibits her unrequited love for Hart in the torch song number “Heart to Hart.” Dee Hoty is a fine actress, but she had to keep asking herself “Who is this little pixie of an actress who keeps stealing the scenes?”
Medford’s Kevin B. McGlynn has some nice moments as a member of the ensemble and as Mr. Tinsworthy, the chairman of the board of Consolidated Industries.
The musical follows the plotline of the movie fairly closely, so if you know the movie, you know what’s coming in the second act.
The production values are up to NSMT’s usual high standards, with special mention to Musical Director Mart Hartman and his orchestra and set designer Philip Witcomb, with his pop-up desks and beds making good use of every advantage the in-the-round configuration allows.
At its best, “9 to 5” is very entertaining. A strong cast and Stafford’s sure hand at the helm for the production numbers lift it well above the shortcomings of Resnick’s book.
North Shore Music Theatre‘s production of “9 to 5: The Musical.” Music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, book by Patricia Resnick, based on the movie “9 to 5.” Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford. Through Oct. 7. For tickets, Call (978) 232-7200 or go to nsmt.org

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