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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘9 to 5, The Musical’ zesty in Fond du Lac

Critic At Large

Fond du Lac Community Theatre

Program covers. (Warren Gerds)

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WFRV) – Dolly Parton was at the performance of “9 to 5, The Musical” Thursday night in Little Goodrich Theatre.

Well, a projected video of her was.

Dolly Parton is more than casually interested in the show. She wrote the music and lyrics for the stage musical, which arrived in 2008. She wrote the song “9 to 5” for the movie, which arrived in 1980.

In the unique video, Dolly Parton introduces the main characters at the beginning. At the end, she tells what happened to the characters after the highly improbable story ends. Everything else is live, in-person on stage with an eager and experienced local cast led by veteran director Therese Burazin.

This is just guessing: Dolly Parton is proud of the show and wants to attach her name and image to it because it presents her as being ahead of the curve in social change. The story is set in 1979, and things in it are dated and not dated at the same time. Dated: Carbon paper, typewriters, white out and other stuff in a business office at the time. 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.

In setting up the story, Dolly Parton in the video says, “The whole world is about to change.” Doing the show live, on stage now with Dolly Parton’s recent image on display brings the show out of the past into the present.

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.

On the other hand, it’s a comedy. Jokes and funny bits fill the action. The show is earthy in language and situations, especially with the boss. Eventually, he confesses to be a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” – leaving off sexual predator in the workplace.

Lobby display with cast for “9 to 5, The Musical” (Warren Gerds)

Three feisty women of the business office are at the center. Violet (Eva Thelen Dunphy) is a widow who is up for a promotion she feels she deserves. Doralee (Hannah Christie Koechel) is a country girl whose reputation is mistakenly sullied. Judy (Jennifer Michele) has split from her husband and jumped into the job market without a paddle.

Each woman has a back story and an emphatic song to go with it – strongly sung – with a major headache being Franklin Hart (Daniel Schneider), who gives the word “boss” a bad name. Everything he says and does is self-serving vile, so Daniel Schneider gets to lay on all sorts of nasty stuff people used to boo about in melodramas.

Nearby is Roz (Ellie Thelen), who is looking for love in the wrong place – from Franklin Hart.

Four production numbers – far-out songs and ensemble dances – turn around Franklin Hart. After smoking marijuana, Violet, Doralee and Judy break into fanciful songs in which something comically dreadful happens to the boss. Roz needs no marijuana to sing about going out of her head for the guy.

Some dance moves are daring – like a running leap into arms and a lift with a spin. Seeing that live on stage is not the same as on a TV or movie screen.

Also brought back by Fond du Lac Community Theatre after many months away due to the COVID-19 pandemic is this seemingly spontaneous scene from Thursday’s performance: After Franklin Hart puts a move on Doralee (Hannah Christie Koechel), Doralee strikes back and whomps him over and over something fierce, with the musicians in the band on stage watching Doralee’s flaying in open-mouthed awe.

The production is big and lively, and the company seems propelled by the opportunity to get back into action.

***

Creative: Based on screenplay by Patricia Resnick and Collin Higgins: music and lyrics – Dolly Parton; book – Patricia Resnick; director – Therese Burazin; choreographer – Ellie Thelen; vocal coach – Eva Thelen Dunphy; music conductor – Paul Thelen; rehearsal pianist – Michael Dunphy; stage manager/ensemble – Stacy Navis; costumers – Lori Matasek and Therese Burazin; lighting design – Mary Runde and Mark Burazin; lighting technician – Josie Eck; sound technician – Joe Shaffer, Hi-Tone Audio; set designer – Mark Burazin; set building team – Kim Berndt, Trevor Clementi, Michael Dunphy, Matthew Rodenkirch, Daniel Schneider, Jeff Smith

Cast:

Violet – Eva Thelen Dunphy
Doralee – Hannah Christie Koechel
Judy – Jennifer Michele
Franklin Hart – Daniel Schneider

Roz – Ellie Thelen
Joe – Trevor Clementi
Dwayne – Cody Lindau
Roz – Ellie Thelen
Dick – John Stratman
Jess – Elise Clarenbach
Kathy – Kim Berndt
Maria – Ashley Hernandez
Margaret – Cheryl Clarenbach
Tinsworthy – Jeff Smith

Missy Hart – Katie Keck
Bob Enright – Nicholas Wagner
Ensemble – Kimberly Burgert, Meadow Ray, Jessica Lefeber, Joey Kunde

Orchestra: Paul Thelen (keyboards), Michael Dunphy (keyboards), Bob Milanowski (drums), Paul Thompson (bass), Nichole Kawalski (reeds)

Running time: Two hours, 27 minutes

Remaining performances:7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-2, 2 p.m. Oct. 3

Info: fdlct.com

***

Musical numbers

Act I

“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

Act II

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: “12 Angry Jurors” by Reginald Rose, Nov. 18-21.

THE VENUE: Goodrich Little Theatre is located at 72 W. 9th St. in the former Goodrich High School, today part of the Fond du Lac School District office building. “Little” is a bit of a misnomer. The theater auditorium holds 768. The space is high, somewhat wide and on three seating levels. Tan is a dominant color – seat backs, wall shadings, stage front, etc. Seats are metal-backed, with tiny check-like multicolor fabric in the seat cushions and backs and wooden arm rests. The floor is concrete, with carpeted aisles in a tan pattern. Side walls rise from a flat cream-colored surface, to smallish tan bricks to vertical, dark pattern wavy surfaces (for acoustical purposes). The ceiling over the stage is a black, flowing surface, and the surface over the audience area is cream-colored, rolling acoustical clouds. The stage is raised about three feet above the floor of the seating area. Steps up to the stage on either side are in inset areas. For “9 to 5, The Musical,” the orchestra is placed on stage to the audience’s left while play scenes take place on half of the stage to the audience’s right. Being part of an active building, the lobby and all the necessities of theatergoing are well-kempt.

THE PERSON: Lowell P. Goodrich was superintendent of Fond du Lac Public Schools from the early 1920s to 1941. When he died in 1949, he was superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools.

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