A trio of resourceful secretaries put their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss in his place while serving up a heaping helping of Dolly Parton songs in the Broadway musical adaptation of the 1980 movie smash 9 To 5, the terrifically entertaining latest from Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre.

Who hasn’t seen Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda as Violet, Doralee, and Judy, the secretarial threesome whose “accidental” kidnapping of their misogynistic boss gives them the power to remake the company they’ve toiled for without reward—and remake their lives in the bargain?

9 To 5: The Musical writer Patricia Resnick wisely sticks closely to the movie’s plot, while Parton herself serves as songwriter for the musical adaptation of the film that made her a movie star, the result being a bright and bouncy journey back in time to a not-so-long-ago era when a male boss (they were all male back then, or so it seemed) could call his secretary a “girl” (there being no such thing as a female “office manager” in those bygone days) and get away with it.

Juliet Schulein sizzles as sharp-tongued Violet, and never more so than when the former Rockette reveals some leggy dance moves to match her smoky vocals in “One Of The Boys,” Vi’s big fantasy number opposite a bevy of spangly chorus boys.

Krista Curry’s Doralee not only shows off the blonde-bombshell assets that made Curry’s Hedy LaRue such a scrumdiddlyumptious treat, this time round she stirs in some country gal smarts and a voice to do Dolly proud in “Backwoods Barbie” and “Cowgirl’s Revenge.”

Colette Peters morphs memorably from caterpillar to butterfly as housewife-turned-office worker Judy, and just wait till the recent Musical Theater Star Of The Year Scenie winner belts the living daylights out of the eleventh-hour showstopper “Get Out And Stay Out.”

Ernie Marchain is deliciously, despicably smarmy as boss Franklin Hart Jr., the abovementioned sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot who’s about to get his comeuppance if Violet, Doralee, and Judy have anything to do with it.

Candlelight favorite Rachel McLaughlan makes for a wonderfully weird Roz Keith, Hart’s love-struck assistant, whose powerhouse “Heart to Hart” has her sharing the stage with a half-dozen pageboyed lookalikes to hilarious effect.

Ensemble tracks and cameos are brought to dynamic triple-threat life by Cynthia Caldwell as office lush Margaret, Elizabeth Campbell as Hart’s long-suffering wife Missy, Marqell Edward Clayton as a clue-seeking Detective, Madeline Ellington as a bright-eyed New Employee, Kevin Gasio as Doralee’s devoted hubby Dwayne, Amanda Leigh as pert office girl Kathy, Scout Lepore as Latin lovely Maria, Jenna Minor as a perky Candy Striper, Orlando Montes as Violet’s besotted younger suitor Joe, Jacob Rushing as Violet’s cute-and-spunky teen son Josh, Cesare G. Quintero as Bob Enright (whose promotion above Violet provokes deserve indignation), and Jim Skousen as both Judy’s scumbag ex-husband Dick and Consolidated CEO Mr. Tinsworthy, with Marius Beltran and assistant choreographer Koda Montoya completing the ab-fab ensemble to splendid effect.

John Vaughan directs with pizzazz and choreographs with panache, giving the entire 9 To 5 cast a virtually nonstop two-act dance workout in one scintillating production number after another, most especially Act One’s “The Dance Of Death,” “Cowgirl’s Revenge,” and “Potion Notion,” a trio of reefer-madness-fueled dream sequences, while musical director Rod Bagheri has the entire cast singing to expertly mixed prerecorded orchestral tracks.

Chuck Ketter’s ingeniously designed set gets transformed from locale to locale with razor-sharp precision by 9 To 5’s extra-hard-working ensemble, with added snaps for plenty of movable desks equipped with actual typewriters. (Remember them?)

Uncredited costumes score high marks for  late-‘70s, early-‘80s nostalgia as do the women’s period wigs, all of the above expertly lit by Candlelight regular Steve Giltner, lighting installed by StreetLite LLC.

Caleb Shiba is stage manager.

Times may have changed since Violet, Doralee, and Judy secretaries put their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss in his place way back at the turn of the ‘80s. Then again, maybe not all that much. What remains the same in 2017 as it did in 1980 is just how delightful a journey the enterprising threesome take. In 9 To 5: The Musical, Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre has yet another fall-season crowd-pleaser on its hands.

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Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.

–Steven Stanley
October 28, 2017
Photos: Demetrios Katsantonis


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