During the past few years there has been a trend, like it or not, to turn movies — originally with or without music — into Broadway musicals.
“Hairspray,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers,” “Newsies,” “Shrek” and “Once” are among the most successful of this genre. “Urban Cowboy” was a definite disaster and the musical version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” never even made it to opening night, although a tune-less version is ready to try again.
Somewhere hovering between the successes and the failures is “9 to 5, The Musical” which opened a three-weekend run Friday evening at the Bristol Opera House.
The Elkhart Civic Theatre production is directed by Michael Cripe assisted by Sue King. In addition to being the area premiere of the Dolly Parton/Patricia Resnick show, it is the first ECT mainstage musical to use a recorded track (Digital Orchestra) implemented by keyboardist/conductor Miriam Houck with computer orchestrations by Dave Kempher.
Like the recent moves to computerized music — South Bend Civic is now on its second digital musical and the ECTeam junior shows all come with recorded tracks — learning how to “sing along” with music that waits for no man (or woman) puts an additional challenge on preparing for a show. And there also is the problem of finding the right sound level balance between live singers and not-so-live instrumentation.
Both can be very tricky and, while there is no doubt that practice will eventually make, if not perfect, at least perfectly acceptable, the electronic process does prove to be a step — or measure — in the right direction.
If you have seen the 1980 movie, also titled “Nine to Five,” you have seen the show. Few if any changes have been made in the story line and the title tune remains a real toe-tapper. In making the film a theatrical musical, however, more than two dozen new Parton songs have been added. Some are humorous, some have a message but none are very memorable.
The tale of Violet Newstead (Bridgette Greene), Doralee Rhodes (Ashlea Romano) and Judy Bernly (Stephanie Yoder) and their employment at Consolidated Enterprises under the domineering thumb of lecherous Franklin Hart Jr. (Byron Brown) speaks to anyone who has endured that type of employer/employee relationship. In the late 1970s, however, this was especially applicable to women.
The way in which the women gain, although inadvertently, the upper hand, first in the office and eventually in their personal lives, is a story that speaks to every female, with a good deal of truth in the exaggerated situations.
Greene is strong as the secretary who does everything and fumes inwardly while the boss takes all the credit. Yoder is the naïve new girl in the office pool, struggling in an abusive relationship at home. Romano is vocally and physically the Partonesque character, detemined to prove her exterior does not a mirror her interior. Her description of life as a “Backwoods Barbie” is an audience favorite.
As Roz Keith, Susan South draws an hilariously exaggerated caricature of the one and only employee blindly devoted to the boss. Brown ogles, leers, grimaces and does everything but twirl his mustache in pursuit of whatever female slows down but this is not a “mellerdrammer” and, to quote Randy Jackson, he is much too frequently “pitchy.”
The set design by John Shoup features a backdrop of clocks set at all hours and sliding flats that reconfigure depending on the location. Three large rectangular boxes serve as desks or cabinets on the multi-level set and may be one reason there was an inordinate amount of very distracting noise during scene changes.
“9 to 5 THE MUSICAL” plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 22-23 and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on S.R. 120. For reservations, call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit ww.elkhartcivictheatre.org.