Nine to Five Should Be This Fun

Having a great time at Theatre by the Sea


Remember the movie Nine to Five?  It was the end of the 1970’s and Dolly Parton played her first movie role as the secretary of a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritcal, bigot executive played by Dabney Colman.  Jane Fonda played the new girl in the office, while Lilly Tomlin played the most experienced office manager.  At a time where the glass ceiling was incredibnly low, the female fantasy faulfilment of how office-working women took matters very direclty into their own hands made the movie a hit.  It couldn’t possibly be funnier…. at least until the entire movie was set to music and brought to Rhode Island at the Theatre by the Sea.

Strangely enough, even though the movie is the 20th top grossing comedy of all time, my wife (probably one of the biggest supporters of outspoken women) had never seen it.  So when the story gets to the point where the women turn the tables on the sexist, belittling boss, she roared with laughter and cheered along with everyone else in the audience.

I had seen the movie, so the plot of the play wasn’t new to me, but the entire play had been set to music.  I hadn’t researched the play in advance, but the songs felt as though Dolly Parton had written them:  with her signature bouncy, perky, music and upbeat and empowering lyrics. Sure enough, Dolly Parton had written the music and the lyrics!  The songs were wrapped well into the story, and if I had never seen the movie I would have sworn that the musical came first.

So the familiar “Wake up in the morning, struggle to the kitchen, pour myself another cup of ambition…” 9-to-5 theme song is a cast-wide affair.   From that point on, I was sold on having the the movie translated to music.  There were a few plot changes, but nothing that diminshed the play.

The cast’s main players are mostly newcomers to Theatre by the Sea.  Lulu Lloyd plays Judy , a mousey divorcee whose disco-era lounge lizard husband, Dick played by Tom Andrew, left her with next to nothing exept an inferiority complex and no marketable job skills.    Maggie McDowell, Doralee, is the busty Texas girl who would have the clearest case of sexual harrassment against the iconic sexist pig Hart, played by Kevin Pariseau. Jan Leigh Herndon, Violet, is the office manager who has been repeatedly passed up for promotion because “customers prefer to work with men”. And Melanie Souza is Hart’s administrative assistant who is infatuated by Hart and tries to win his approval by being so by-the-book that she undermines morale and productivity.

There’s a large ensemble cast, playing roles like Doralee’s husband Dwane, a candystriper, the office worker who makes the mistake of getting caught comparing salaries, the worker who handles the stress of the job by staying largely intoxicated, and a character I don’t remember from the movie, Bob the accountant.  Not only does the play get all 18 cast members on stage at the same time, they also switch scenes with incredible rapidity.

Was it funny?  We were laughing all the way through, especially when they made jokes that pointed out just how life has changed since 1979. And when it was over, my wife was the first one on her feet with an standing ovation.

See the play at Theatre by the Sea until August 11.  Visit their website at for showtimes and ticket information.  And if you read this too late to plan on getting to South County to see Nine to Five, don’t dispair — my personal favorite musical comes later this month with more old-school office comedy with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.



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