9 TO 5 THE MUSICALBook by Patricia Resnick
Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
North Texas Performing Arts Repertory Theatre
Director: Rebecca Lowrey
Music Director: Rebecca Lowrey
Choreographer: Jessica Humphrey
Stage Manager: Sienna Riehle
Set Designer: Kennedy Smith
Costume Designer: Hope Cox
Lighting Designer: Andrew Makepeace
Sound Consultant: Brian Christensen
Violet Newstead: Sky Williams
Judy Bernly: Rachel Poole
Doralee Rhodes: Mary Margaret Gates
Franklin Hart, Jr.: Jared Culpepper
Roz Keith: Brittany Brown
Joe/Ensemble: Aaron Braverman
Kathy/Ensemble: Kally Duncan
Dwayne Rhodes/Ensemble: Braiden Fisher
Tinsworthy/Ensemble: Jack Carolan
Margaret/Ensemble: Bonnie Grugle
Missy Hart: Isabelle Culpepper
Josh Newstead: Finn Hardge
Dick Bernly/Ensemble: Michael Christian
Bob Enright/Ensemble: Tomas Moquete
Maria/Ensemble: Ursula Villarreal
New Girl/Ensemble: Leah Flores
Ensemble: Caleb Ross, Duncan Michael
Reviewed Performance: 2/23/2020
Reviewed by Holly Reed, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Having been a child in the 80’s—in the South—my heritage is steeped in country music. Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys, and many others heavily imprinted on my early musicianship. While I haven’t seen the movie 9 to 5, I entered the theatre very familiar with the title song. I brought in a curiosity of how Dolly’s country roots would hold up in a musical theatre setting, and also wondered how somewhat dated source material would translate to a modern audience. I was very pleasantly surprised!
I was blown away by the robust ensemble vocals as the opening (and title) number rang energetically through the theatre. I could tell immediately that this was going to be a vocally strong company—which deeply delights me as an audience member. The vocal and music arrangements were beautiful, and while the music nodded to Dolly’s original sound, there was a modern flair that brought everything forward and made it feel very current. While there was a good amount of comedy “cheese,” the music kept the show from feeling like a low-budget campy production. There was a sweetness and levity to the story that kept it from being overly political but still ringing truth in a very aware, “me-too” culture. We don’t tolerate folks like Franklin Hart, Jr., and while we may not be actually stringing them up with a garage door opener, we can’t deny the notion that we might consider it.
Franklin Hart, Jr. is one of those villains that you can’t help but truly despise. There are really no redeeming qualities present, so there’s no opportunity to relate to the character at all. Embracing the role, Jared Culpepper maxed out his “jerk-ness” and truly played the creep we all enjoyed loathing. I actually felt a little sorry for him during bows, because it was hard to separate character from actor. While he did a fabulous job pulling off the part, it was really hard to applaud him! So Jared—know you were fabulous. It’s just hard for an audience to cheer for a character who never found any redemption.
There were three equally shining stars lighting up the Willow Bend stage. Sky Williams, Rachel Poole, and Mary Margaret Gates were a joy to watch and hear.
The most grounded and consistently connected actress was Sky Williams as co-protagonist Violet Newstead. She carried the stage, was a solid vocalist, and the scenes always appeared to adjust their position to accommodate her strong presence. She never lacked for confidence and had flawless execution on all vocals. I always felt like the show was solid because she was at the helm. A true leading lady, I would pay to see that smile and feel the force of her talent any day.
The second of the power-triad was Rachel Poole as the office newbie Judy Bernly. Rachel has a destiny among the stars if she continues to press ahead; her vocal control, power, and connectedness was as good as it gets in the 11 o’clock number “Get Out and Stay Out.” This is a show that doesn’t peak early. “Get Out” was possibly the most important number in the aesthetic of the show, the plot line, the character, and the actress—the realization that this girl’s got a future!
Mary Margaret Gates was a brilliant representation of Doralee (and Dolly’s) spunk and flair. Short and sassy, with a believable sweet-girl heart. Her authenticity captured the audience’s heart in “Backwoods Barbie,” pleading with both her scene partners and the audience that there’s more to her than false eyelashes and big hair. Mary Margaret brought a bright confidence and spunk to the show while allowing the two other leading ladies to equally share the spotlight. Their trio numbers “I Just Might” and “Change It” brought the women together as a powerful force to be reckoned with. Their mashup of murderous fantasies “Dance of Death,” “Cowgirl’s Revenge,” and “Potion Notion” was hilarious and well-played.
The ensemble was strong and used well throughout in transitional numbers and as a solid foundation for the leads. My favorites were the opportunities for the male ensemble to shine, such as in Violet’s number, “One of the Boys.”
Rebecca Lowrey not only did a stellar job directing the show, but her musical direction was flawless as well. The instrumental choices were perfect and tasteful, and it was fun to watch the band as they highlighted and supported what was happening on stage. I loved seeing them jam—especially Ben Brown, who played the keys and the bass...seemingly at the same time!
9 to 5 is a fun romp back to the Dolly days—a little cheesy but with a lot of heart and even more talent. The power trio of Sky Williams, Rachel Poole, and Mary Margaret Gates are worth the ticket price. You’ll semi-appreciate Jared Culpepper as the ultimate sleezebag of Franklin Hart, Jr., but that’s the point. And you’ll leave thankful that culture is changing from the world the show represents, and that powerful women like Violet, Judy and Doralee are out there leading and making a difference.
NTPA Repertory Theatre
February 27, 28, 29 at 8:00pm
February 29 and March 1 at 2:30pm.
Willow Bend Center of the Arts
6121 W. Park Blvd. B216, Plano, TX 75093
Performances run February 21 through March 1. Tickets range from $20 to $30.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.ntparep.org or by calling 972-422-2575.