You have one more weekend to tumble out of bed and pour yourself a cup of ambition to see “9 to 5 The Musical.” If the ambitious Owosso Community Players’ production of the Broadway musical was just a collection of Dolly Parton songs, it would still be worth watching. But this combination of an empowering story, catchy songs and slick dancing is the perfect way to kick off the theater season with 1970s style.
Based on the 1980 movie of the same name, the musical is about three women working for the man and then kidnapping the man and tying him to a garage door opener. This populist comedy transitions very faithfully to the stage with the help of Parton’s music and lyrics by Patricia Resnick. Apart from some structural problems like a slow, sappy second half adopted from the film and occasional sound issues, director and co-choreography Garrett Bradley staged a very polished production, complete with a stunning set designed by Dirk Rennick and Den Wenzlick and colorful costumes designed by Cathy Johnson and Alissa Britten.
Playing “the man,” Quentin Brainerd is perfectly despicable as company boss Franklin Hart Jr. Tall and charismatic, with a great voice to match, Brainerd effortlessly reduces women into sex objects with lines like “not too bad for a girl with a little tread worn off the tire.” While neither Hart nor Brainerd’s performance is based on the current groper-in-chief, the obvious real world parallels do make songs like “Here for You,” where Hart fantasizes about seducing one of his employees into creepy instead of laugh-worthy moments.
Two of the three lead women, Alissa Britten and Mary Maurer, crackle and burn as the wry Violet Newstead and mousy Judy Bernly respectively. Britten gets her share of snarky quips, but her big Broadway number “One of the Boys” in Act II where she tap dances in unison with a line of silver suited men is a standout.
Claire Canfield plays Doralee Rhodes, the sassy Texas blonde who is more than her assets. Canfield not only resembles Parton with her lithe voice flavored with a country twang, but she also gets some of the best songs like “Backwoods Barbie” and “9 to 5.” Canfield can also act, and she gets one of the few moments of spontaneous audience applause when she threatens Hart, “I will change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot.”
The highlights of the show are the murder fantasies of the three leads. “Dance O’Death” is a noir nightclub steamer with Judy as the femme fatale, Doralee’s “Cowgirl’s Revenge” turns Hart into a branded steer at the rodeo, and “Potion Notion” stars Violet as Disney’s Snow White who plots to poison Hart with a magic apple.
The rest of the supporting cast, including Ben Cassidy, Anna Owens and the nimble ensemble dancers, are all essential and fantastic. But Rachael Cupples as Hart’s homely personal assistant Roz Keith with a crush on her boss steals the show with her Act I burlesque ballad “Heart to Hart.” Accompanied by identically dressed backup dancers, Cupples awkwardly shuffles around the stage with a hunch like Hart’s redheaded Igor expressing her unnerving sexual desires. The contrast between Cupples’ intentionally stilted movement and the dancer’s graceful physicality is comic gold. But when Cupples nails her high notes at the end, they might as well close the curtain and end the show.
“9 to 5 The Musical”
Owosso Community Players 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15-16; 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 $20/$18 seniors and students/$10 children 13 and under. The Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main St., Owosso (989) 723-4003, owossoplayers.com