‘9 to 5’ combines comedy and serious issues

By By Autum D. F. Hopkins
For the Saturday Gazette-Mail

On Friday night, the Charleston Light Opera Guild chose to tackle the original girl-power-movie-turned-musical, “9 to 5,” and its members did an excellent job of it.

The comedy, released in 1980 and starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman and Jane Fonda, sat square in the middle of the equal-rights struggle as more and more women took to the workforce and demanded equal pay and a safe working environment, free of harassment.

Charleston’s rendition of the tongue-in-cheek musical that pokes fun at the horrendous working conditions many women faced through the years features three heroines: Rebecca Mullins (Violet), Rudi Raynes,(Doralee) and Elizabeth Cary Brown (Judy).

The women portray harried secretaries trapped under the thumb of a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” — played to slimy perfection by the lecherously groping Kenny Bass.

After a particularly frustrating day at the office, the ladies unwind at Mullins’ home with a little recreational drug use and social drinking. While relaxing, they spin tales of just how they would do away with the boss, if ever the opportunity presented itself.

The three songs that result from their fantasy are wild and whimsical and range from a rodeo gone amok to a fairytale poisoning.

The show’s solos and duets are entertaining and highlight the talented ensemble of singers and dancers in the cast, but they are no match for the dynamic numbers that feature all three women singing together.

With three completely different vocal styles and a tight harmony, the trio shook the house on numbers like “Joy to the Girls” and “Shine Like the Sun.”

Although the subject matter is somewhat dark, the cast does an excellent job of keeping the show light and entertaining at every turn.

Supporting actors like Laurie Pennington (Roz) seamlessly round out the hilarity. Be warned though, the humor borderlines on vulgar, and the content of the show is extremely sexually suggestive and features some foul language.

The live orchestra was wonderful, and it’s always better to hear vocals with live instrumentals, as opposed to canned music.

However, the show was plagued by microphone and sound problems throughout the performance, which, unfortunately, did take away from the enjoyment. Hopefully, that was an opening-night glitch and will be corrected for the remainder of the run.

I highly recommend getting your girlfriends together and leaving your kids at home for an evening of fun hi-jinx and empowerment.

The nice thing about the stage show is that the wretched-boss character is even less prevalent than in the film version.

It’s nice to sit back and take this show strictly for its comedic value and not as a lament of the current working conditions in America. In my lifetime, although not in my career, the conditions these women faced are more of a reality and less of an entertainment device.

It is good to watch this show from the perspective of someone whose working conditions are much improved by women who, like these characters (although, hopefully not involving hostage-taking), stood and made things better for women like me who followed them.

If you would like to see “9 to 5,” it runs May 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17 at 7:30 p.m., with one matinée showing, on Sunday, May 11 at 3 p.m.

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