By Patrick B. McGuigan
From top to bottom, performances in Poteet Theatre’s “9 to 5: The Musical” are superbly delivered. The age-old story of abusive, misogynistic and hypocritical males has rarely been rendered with greater verve, intensity and slicing humor than in this script – and the Poteet crew delivers the tale in a high-octane format.
The story is told through the misadventures of a trio of mistreated lady workers who eventually become gal pals united in opposition to their malevolent boss – Franklin Hart, played by Lane Fields.
As Violett Newsted, Kerrie Brinkman-White is ultimately appealing but along the way border-line sinister as the woman who really runs things at Consolidated Enterprises.
Her colleague Doralee (portrayed by Jamie Buxton) is drop-dead gorgeous and the subject of unfair gossip and innuendo from other women at the firm, including Violett.
Then, there’s Judy (Cyndi Steele-Harrod), a woman re-entering the workforce of 1979 after her husband departs with a teenage bimbo named Mindi.
Fields is masterfully unsympathetic as a jerk and a letch whose view of women is a parody of the worst excesses of male chauvinism.
Each of the lead performers delivers in this sometimes over-the-top musical comedy, but Steele-Harrod merits a special few words. She is simply superb and touchingly believable as her character moves from near-paralysis rooted in self-doubt to independence and self-reliance.
Country music superstar Dolly Parton wrote music and lyrics for the show, and appears frequently on a giant screen projected behind the performers. Her song-writing talent is manifested throughout, most notably in both the title song and a tender duet, “Let Love Grow,” that Violet and Joe (Andrew Himes in a strong performance) share near the end of Act II.
Another sweet song in the score is “Backwoods Barbie,” Doralee’s self-deprecating explanation of her increasing self-awareness and unwillingness to rely merely on her physical attributes to make a way in the world.
And then, there’s that trio of dream sequence songs in Act I.
Those tunes are among the show’s highlights, affording each of the principal characters a chance to soar.
The last – Brinkman-White’s hilarious rendering of “Potion Notion” as a deranged Snow White complete with spectacular ensemble work and choreography, and amusing backdrop videos evoking the Disney classic cartoon – is one of the best fusions of good acting with technical pizaaz seen recently in a local live performance.
Harrod’s “Dance of Death,” set in a bizarro-world version of a nightclub, and Buxton’s “Cowgirl’s Revenge” are nearly as powerful in distilling the focused fury the ladies feel toward their awful boss.
Paula Parkhurst delivers memorably as Roz Keith, the sexually repressed head of the secretarial pool who fulfills Mr. Hart’s every whim, getting little or no thanks in return (other than a slap on the rear).
The ensemble of mostly young performers is superb in a variety of energetic dances to recorded classics from the story’s setting in 1979 America.
Highly commended are the contributions of Kyle Anderson, David Borum, Stuart Braud, Travis Brauer, Phoebe Butts, Jillian Buxton, Paige Damron, Abbey Fitzjarrell, Derek Flowers, Makayla Fontaine, Joe Grotta, Katie Hardin, Dalton Harrod, Kellan Harrod, Larz Hoban, Susan James, Caitlin Jones, Jenny Markmiller, Dakota Muckelrath, Brenna Noble, David Palmer, Alex Prather, Angela Prock, Alisha Ragon, Michael Russell, Marissa Skube, Bailey Smith, Morgan Smith, Paul Smith, Madelyn Sprout, Anna Steele, Janitta Swain, and Alexandrea Ward. Taylor Handy and Chris Harrod will appear in important parts in future performances.
As is always the case at Poteet, director Jay Prock and his production aides (including Cyndi Steele-Harrod as co-director and in several other technical roles) are outstanding. The deft use of the stage wings to move the sets on and off is always a marvel to behold, including the fun and energy the stage hands (many of them also performers) display in their assigned duties.
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early so you can enjoy the classic television advertisements projected on the backdrop before the show, and during Intermission. Anticipate an almost-two-hour first act, and a total of almost three hours for the whole show.
Of note: the show has enough expletives and downright raunchy behavior to merit a PG-13 rating. For tolerant-minded adults of all ages it makes for a good evening of musical theater.
The Poteet Theatre performs in the basement at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 222 N.W. 15th Street.
“9 to 5: The Musical” continues through August 4. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. For tickets ($20), go to www.poteettheatre.com or telephone 405-609-1023.
What a way to make a living! “9 to 5: The Musical” at Poteet Theatre
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