Funny. Inspiring. Outrageous. Those words describe perfectly the Gateway Playhouse’s production of “9 to 5.” From the casting to the music and everything in between, “9 to 5” must be one of the most entertaining musicals you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing.
The show begins with a witty introduction by the true southern belle herself, Dolly Parton, as her image is projected on a giant clock hanging from the ceiling. Parton sets the stage for Violet, Judy and Doralee – three very different working class women in a man’s world.
The opening scene – “9 to 5” – sets your head bopping as the cast throws themselves into the number with high-energy dancing and spirited singing. We meet our leading ladies – Violet, the ambitious widowed mother, Doralee, a (married) Texas blonde bombshell who teaches us not to judge a book by its cover and finally there’s Judy, played by the beautiful Erica Aubrey, who for the first time in her life finds herself alone (divorced from a man who left her for his secretary) and determined to make her own way in the world.
Violet, played by the talented Carrie McNulty, takes pity upon Judy, who is starting her first day at Consolidated Companies and has no office experience whatsoever. Violet takes Judy under her wing, giving her tips and pointers on how to
survive life in the company in the upbeat number “Around Here.”
All three women work for Franklin Hart, Jr., played by Edward Staudenmayer, a sexist, domineering and lecherous man – yet I found the character very difficult to hate. Staudenmayer has a strong stage presence, a powerful voice and he oozes sexual charisma. Hart lusts after his secretary Doralee and makes no secret of it. Doralee, played by the vivacious Becky Gulsvig, brushes off his flirtatious behavior, until she discovers that Hart has been spreading rumors that they are having an affair. It’s as Doralee belts out the heartfelt “Backwoods Barbie” that we fall for this southern belle. Gulsvig’s Dolly Parton twang is spot-on, and she brings the country girl character to life in every move she makes.
Headlining the show is funny gal Sally Struthers, who plays Roz, the besotted executive assistant who pines after the playboy Hart. The audience was laughing out loud as Roz danced provocatively around Hart’s office during her number “Heart to Hart.” Struthers has impeccable comedic timing, and she portrays the middle-aged Roz to hilarious perfection.
Our three heroines (or villains, depending on who you’re asking) bond together over a joint and their hatred of Hart on a lunch break. Each lady in her drug-laced stupor fantasizes about what she would do to Hart to pay him back for all the wrong he’s done. Judy fantasizes she is an unforgiving femme fatale; Doralee is a cowgirl gone bad, and Violet is a deranged Snow White.
In a turn of events that will leave you holding your stomach with laughter, the women kidnap Hart and lock him in his house, manacled. They form a plan to run the company as they see fit. With Doralee’s help in forging Hart’s signature, the women make a host of changes.
So what is the fate of Violet, Judy and Doralee? In an ironic twist, Hart is able to escape, but a surprise visit from the CEO of Consolidated Companies, Mr. Tinsworty, leads to a hysterical scene in which Hart claims the three women are responsible for everything that has happened at the company over the last few weeks – and that they kidnapped him and held him captive in his own home. Tinsworthy congratulates the women on their success – and laughs at Hart’s theatrical story of kidnapping.
It’s a musical that’s a mixture of song, dance and a whole lot of crazy. By the end, you’re up on your feet, dancing and singing along with the cast.
Don’t miss “9 to 5,” playing through August 4 at the Patchogue Theatre. Gateway will wrap up it’s 63rd season with “Phantom of the Opera” Aug. 22 – Sept. 9. For tickets visit www.gatewayplayhouse.org.