Saturday, May 3, 2014

REVIEW: Stageworks Northwest Clocks in with a Stunning "9 to 5: The Musical"

Stageworks Northwest presents a stunning production of  9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL.

Pushed to the boiling point by their boss, three female co-workers concoct a plan to get even with the "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" they call their boss. They conspire to take control of their company and learn there's nothing they can't do -- even in a man's world.

Set in 1979, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL is a hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era with music and lyrics by country star Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick. Outrageous, thought-provoking, and even a little romantic, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL is about teaming up and taking care of business.

You may have seen the 1980 movie starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.

The Talent

The production by Stageworks NW is slick and good looking, sounds great and features some fantastic talent. It's nice to have a group in the area sinking heart and soul (and some serious money) into musical-theater. The snappy production is beautifully directed by Janeene Niemi, with musical direction by Seth Burns and choreography by Teresa Jansen.

The generally talented cast features Julie Sumpter Earls as Violet Newstead, Bethany Pithan as Doralee Rhodes (the Dolly Parton role) and Ashley Stevens as Judy Bernly in the lead female roles, and Dean Baker as Franklin Hart, Jr. as the alpha male. The women performers far more often than not outshone the men by leaps and bounds. Baker and Caleb Pierce were really good with Pierce (in a supporting role that didn't really get a chance to shine until Act II) especially brilliant. A great vocalist and brilliant actor.

Earls, Pithan and Ashley Stevens (right) were fantastic. Together they made a trio of triple threats (which means they could act, sing and dance). Stevens had the best pipes--a beautiful, strong voice. Pithan, Stageworks NW Artistic Director, was the best overall. What a performer! And here she's been hiding in the wings. It's about time she hit the boards. And she really pulled off the southern accent, too.

Overall, the ensemble was very good; all sang well and carried out the dance moves. Some moved better than others, but those who lacked the snap...well, not everyone is a triple threat. As mentioned Caleb Pierce (as Joe) was a standout, but so were Patty Stevens (as Roz), newcomer Susan Brookfield (as Margaret, the office lush) and the versatile Laura Ouellette Tack in numerous roles. I think she played four bit roles other than her ensemble part for which she was the chorus standout bringing precision dance, energetic performance and quality stage presence.

The Tech

The lovely set for "9 to 5" from Stageworks Northwest in Longview, Wash.

Sad to say, the show was severely hampered by audio problems. Honestly, that's the only strike it had against it, but it is a serious one--especially for a musical. Especially irritating were the drop-outs from the wireless mics, and especially so from Ashley Stevens' mic. This is NOT acceptable.

Other than that, the production values were high. The set (above), by Teresa and Chuck Jansen, was a marvel with three revolves and several levels. The changes were smooth and impressive. The costumes, by Lynn Jansen, were quite good, but mostly found rather than constructed. There were numerous costume changes which added interest to the scenes.

So, you caught that, yes? The talent from Jansen family? Teresa (designer), Chuck (technical director), Lynn (costumer) and Teresa (choreographer). Seems an ideal tech team. Kudos also to Stage Manager Leslie Slape and Lighting Designer Jennifer Cheney.

Which brings me to the place where I want to point out the continued improvements the company is making to their space. The lighting continues to get better with more instruments, better illumination and more creative use. The theater has undergone an acoustical treatment and is looking better all the time.

Finally, I need to mention the great use of video designed into the show's package that features the real Dolly Parton. A nice touch.

The Tag

This is a production worth seeing; rich with talent and technical treasures. If you go, tell them we sent you.

There are 17 performances left today through June 8, 2014, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. at their theater, Longview, Wash. Tickets: All seats $15. See their website for purchase.

CAUTION: The troupe has wisely rated the show PG-13 and for good reason. I, myself, was embarrassed by some of the content and I certainly wouldn't want my youngest kids (under 15) seeing the show. There is some raw language, a good amount of sexual innuendo and course sexist dialogue, pot smoking, some violence, sexual harassment, and several adult situations.

By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photo provided.

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