Thirty-three years after the movie “Nine to Five” came out we can still laugh about the absurd, sexist way women were treated in the workplace — and how the three female leads in the movie got their revenge.
It would be nice if we could laugh about “the old days” when sexism was rampant in the workplace. Unfortunately, some of that behavior still exists.
The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre gives us another chance to laugh at it — and think about it — when it presents “9 to 5: The Musical” beginning Friday at the Arts United Center. While the story remains true to the movie, the addition of music gives it a new dimension.
Don't get the impression that this is a serious, issue-driven play, however. It's a musical farce set in the late '70s, with a musical score by Dolly Parton. It takes place just before the technology boom, before typewriters and Rolodexes were replaced by computers and digital address books.
“What is interesting,” said Director Dianne B. Shaw, “is that although it's a period piece it's still about some of the same things we're still coming up against in the workplace.”
Three female co-workers, each with distinct personalities and life situations, get exasperated with their egotistical boss and set out to teach him a lesson, eventually taking control of the company.
The three main characters and the women who played them in the movie were:
•Doralee Rhodes, originally played by Dolly Parton.
•Violet Newstead, originally played by Lily Tomlin
•Judy Bernly, originally played by Jane Fonda.
Doralee has to refuse the advances of her boss, Mr. Hart. She is a “very sweet and capable person,” says Shaw, “really so darn cute. She was hit on a lot.” Violet is more of a career woman. She has a child and seeks success in the corporate world. Judy never expected to be in the work world, but she had to find a job after her husband ran off with his secretary.
Shaw said she told the women selected for the three leads, “You are all everywoman.”
Rather than look for actors who resembled the female leads in the movie, Shaw said she didn't look for physical resemblance, but rather for a particular type. For example, Aimee Lackey, who came in to audition for the role of Doralee, seemed better suited as Violet, so that's who she was cast as, Shaw said. Lindsay Hoops had a vulnerability that suited her well for playing Judy Bernly. Meagan Solloway plays Doralee.
“9 to 5: The Musical” is unusual in that it offers leads for three women. Often roles are limited for women no longer considered young.
“It is a nice showcase for women, and it is unusual,” Shaw said, noting the cast does have males. The boss, Mr. Hart, is played by Kent Bixler, who Shaw says is a nice man until “when he gets on stage, he gets this little glint in his eye.”
Shaw, who is directing at the Civic for a second time, also directed the musical “Dreamgirls” last year. “This has been a really nice opportunity for me.”
She also gave a shout-out to Eunice Wadewitz, music director at the Embassy. Shaw said the music includes “very complex harmonies. It's really beautiful music.”