MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV) – An especially rough-and-tumble version of “9 to 5 The Musical” is being set loose by Theatre on the Bay in Herbert L. Williams Theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Marinette Campus.
In the story, three fed-up women secretaries start a revolution against their boss, who confesses to being a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” He could have added “sexual predator in the workplace.”
Violet (Brittany Welch) is a widow who is up for a promotion she clearly has earned but meets sexism.
Doralee (Jacqueline Nutter) is a married country girl whose reputation is sullied by the lies of her boss.
Judy (Jennifer Rickaby) has split from her new-model-minded husband and jumped into the job market without a paddle.
Present is the aura of Dolly Parton. A cardboard cut-out version of her poses for picture taking in a space adjacent to the lobby. Dolly Parton wrote the song “9 to 5” for the movie, which arrived in 1980. She wrote the music and lyrics for the stage musical, which arrived in 2008. The character Doralee is essentially her – aided by Jacqueline Nutter recreating Dolly Parton’s sweet southern accent and way of commanding the stage.
The production is rough-and-tumble in two ways.
First, the script includes scattered cursing, salacious body action and aggressive ways of solving a problem.
And then – distinctive in this production – is how Sam Wargula literally throws himself into the character of the boss, Franklin Hart, Jr. Franklin Hart’s pursuit of Doralee is wholly hormonal – vividly presented. Somewhat amazingly, Sam Wargula climbs atop Franklin Hart’s desk, leaps from it, falls to the floor when pushed, deliberately crashes to the floor in Franklin Hart’s chair, takes a slap to the face and athletically submits to other bruising action. And there’s more. Plus, he’s sometimes singing in the midst of the ouch-making.
Each woman has a backstory and an emphatic song to go with it – strongly sung – with a major headache being the self-serving vile Franklin Hart.
Nearby is Roz (Lisa Atkinson-LeBoeuf, giving all in her 50th Theatre on the Bay role), who is looking for love in the wrong place – from Franklin Hart.
Weaving in is company accountant Joe (Justin Pilz), trying to woo the reluctant Violet, notably with the tender ballad “Let Love Grow.”
Four production numbers – far-out songs and splashy dances – turn around Franklin Hart. The ensemble members throw themselves into the action.
Key are four scenes. After smoking pot, Violet, Doralee and Judy break into fanciful songs in which something comically dreadful happens to Franklin Hart. Roz needs no marijuana to sing about going out of her head for the guy.
Veteran director John Thornberry and his creative colleagues including music director Brittany Welch (doubling as Violet) and choreographer Heather Olson have the company well prepared.
The story is set in 1979, and things in it are dated and not dated at the same time.
Dated: Typewriters, white out, rotary telephones and other stuff in a business office at the time, along with name references such as to Juan Valdez (an ad personality attached to coffee).
Dated: Look-the-other-way situations.
Not dated: A tone set by the three leading women characters of the #metoo movement, along with pay equity and equal chance for job promotion for women.
On the technical side, making a stage musical based on a movie is a challenge. The show has multiple scene changes that disrupt the pacing, although this production has many clever scene-piece ideas to economize the changing. Controlling sound levels of individual players is another challenge.
Overall, it’s a big, bruiser of a production tied to the catchy song “9 to 5” and the catchy, ground-breaking personality of Dolly Parton.
Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes
Remaining performances: 7 p.m. July 16; 2 p.m. July 17; 7 p.m. July 22-23; and 2 p.m. July 24
Creative: Based on the book by Patricia Resnick and 1980 movie, featuring music and lyrics by Dolly Parton; director – John Thornberry; music director – Brittany Welch; choreographer – Heather Olson; lighting designer – Chris Weber; set designer and builder – Joshua LaLonde; costume supervisor – Rebecca Archambault
Cast (in order of appearance):
Violet Newstead – Brittany Welch
Joe – Justin Pilz
Josh Newstead – Keaton Bartz
Doralee Rhodes – Jacqueline Nutter
Dwayne Rhodes – Buddy Beyer
Judy Bernly – Jennifer Rickaby
Dick Bernly – James Porras II
Franklin Hart, Jr. – Sam Wargula
Missy Hart – Sarah Severson-Rhoehm
Roz Keith – Lisa Atkinson-LeBoeuf
Maria Delgado – Ali Linstad
Kathy – Annalisa Mines
Margaret – Lori Patzke
Bob Enright – James Porras II
Detective – Chase Grabowski
Doctor – Jacilyn Knight
Candystriper – Kate Schwaba
New Employee – Cereina Grawey
Russell Tinsworthy – Gary L. Scholtz, Sr.
Ensemble – Lauren Halfmann, Connor Whisler
Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)
“9 to 5” – Cast
“Around Here” – Cast
“Here for You” – Hart and The Boys Club
“I Just Might” – Cast
“Backwoods Barbie” – Doralee
“Heart to Hart” – Roz and Roz’s Girls
“The Dance of Death” – Judy and Judy’s Joint Ensemble
“Cowgirl’s Revenge” – Doralee and Rodeo Ensemble
“Potion Notion” – Violet and Woodland Creatures Ensemble
“Joy to the Girls” – Cast
“Shine Like the Sun” – Cast
Entr’acte – Orchestra
“One of the Boys” – Violet and Ensemble
“5 to 9” – Roz
“Change It” – Cast
“Let Love Grow” – Joe and Violet
“Get Out and Stay Out” – Judy
“Finale: 9 to 5” – Cast
NEXT: Theater renovations to include of the lobby, seating and sound and systems.
THE VENUE: The 362-seat Herbert L. Williams Theatre is located in the Fine Arts Building at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, 750 W. Bay Shore St. The bay of Green Bay is in shouting distance to the east. The facility was built in 1968. Central in the theater is a thrust stage, a half octagon that the audience surrounds. The theater includes brick walls on both sides of the stage and a white ceiling of half circles radiating from the stage, with the area above the stage exposed for the guts of the lighting grid. Three steps lead to the stage, which today bears the name The Nancy A. Gehrke Stage. The design of the stage was one of the first of its kind in the region. The theater feels spacious.
THE PEOPLE: Herbert L. Williams was professor of communication arts and artistic director of Theatre on the Bay with a lively and engaging personality. He loved to act and appeared many times in leading roles at Theatre on the Bay. Mostly, Herb Williams loved to direct. He retired after 30 years in May 1996 and continued to direct and perform in Green Bay and the Fox Cities. He may have directed more plays than anyone in the region. Herb Williams died in 2014 in Green Bay at age 79. A memorial service was held in the theater that bears his name. Nancy A. Gehrke acted for 40 years on the stage named for her. Today, she operates a bed and breakfast in Menominee, Michigan.