Community theatre came to life this weekend with the opening of a large ensemble version of 9 to 5: The Musical at E.J. Lajeunesse, staged by Cardinal Music Productions. Produced and directed by Joseph Cardinal, the 24-member cast explored an idea that almost every one of us has wanted to do at some point in our lives: kidnap our boss and take over the company – well maybe not all of us, that might just be me.
The Dolly Parton musical, based on the 1980 film of the same name, explores a time of less institutionalized sexism that prevailed in the white-collar professional world of the 1970s. Bosses were King and the persistent slap on the behind was more common than we’d like to remember. Much of the appeal of 9 to 5 has to go to Dolly who turned the original song into a movie about 37 years ago. The musical premiered in Los Angeles in September 2008, and opened on Broadway in April 2009. As with the title track, she wrote all the music and lyrics for the musical and guided the storyline to closely resemble that of the movie.
Surprisingly for the Windsor show, Dolly herself provides some cheeky and charming narration while introducing the characters and situations.
Equal parts feminism and farce are at the helm in this production as our three main heroines temporarily imprison their sexist boss and secretly run the company with much more success than he did. As expected, 9 to 5 often flirts, much like Dolly’s other well-known role Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, with a little wink-wink and nudge-nudge here and there. But nothing is ever allowed to get too far out of hand.
The wide stage at E.J. Lajeunesse provided a good foundation for several moving stage pieces to provide various office, elevator and home scenes with little effort. This gave the audience more time to take in the cast, costumes and 19 musical numbers throughout the show.
Led by three extremely talented actresses: Linday Norris as Violet, Regan White as Judy, and Nina Fasullo as Doralee, who paved the way for a late 1970s jam that felt uncomfortably… retro. Did we really dress like that? Ugh.
As Violet, Norris was as domineering and provoking as Lily Tomlin was in the movie role, giving Violet not only a strong will, but a certain sexy charm as well. She was rock solid in her vocals throughout.
White offered Judy a bashful beginning that grew through the show. Her take on the character offered plenty of fun moments, especially when she was in charge of making sure the boss was held captive. He vocals were sensational.
Parton gave the ultimate performance in the movie, so Fasullo had a lot to live up to when crafting Doralee. Her double D blonde had all the downhome country charm that Dolly offered, including an incredibly tight dress and super flirtatious spirit. Her musical performances were believable – not only did she have to handle recreating something that resembled Dolly’s singing voice, but she had to maintain a southern accent in both the dialog and musical numbers. Great job.
The three ladies were a hoot during a dream sequence while under the influence of a little marijuana. The song routines that followed were the funniest moments in the show and gave each of the leads a chance to shine on their own, with Norris’ chorus line performance of Potion Notion a favourite.
Joseph Cardinal plays such a great slime ball, he must own partial trademarks on being evil. He rocked the house as Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde earlier this year and he’s returned as a-hole boss Franklin Hart, Jr. in this production. The slimy moves, butt slaps and pelvic thrusts were enough to hate Mr. Hart, but Cardinal really came through with songs like Here for You, Dance of Death and Always A Woman, where Cardinal had his best creepy moments.
Other standouts included Carla Gyemi, who gave Hart’s Admin Assistant Roz a good dose of humour, coming off both nerdy and erotic like Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler) from The Big Bang Theory. Owen Bortolin was charming as Joe and Matt Dumouchel was a total dork as Judy’s ex-husband Dick. Additionally, this show had one of my favourite local performers Sydney White who played Maria. She always seems to give her roles that little extra, no matter how big or small, and she tore up the stage with some charming moves.
There wasn’t a bad seed in the entire ensemble, which was rounded out with Allen Levack as Dwyane and Bob, Kristin McMahon as Missy, Julie Walton as Margaret, Kaitlyn Karns (who doubles as Doralee) as Kathy, Meredith Garswood as Josh, John garaswood as Russell, Caroline Garswood as the detective, Anita Carlini as the doctor, Charlotte Salisbury as the candy striper, Shelby Olmsted as the new employee and ensemble members Tracy Olmsted, Stephanie Cragg and Nataline Cardinal.
The choreography by Fasullo was fabulous, as was the moveable set pieces by Cardinal and Andre Costa.
This production, and Cardinal Music Productions, is a great example of why Windsor’s theatre community is so vibrant – there’s enough variety and talent to carry audiences to places we’ve only seen in movies and television. 9 to 5 gave us a little peek at Dolly Parton’s vision and we’re lucky to have such a passionate group give that to us.
There are three more chances to catch the Dolly madness as 9 to 5: The Musical continues with performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 29., 30 and Oct. 1). Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors) at Cardinal Music Productions – 2569 Jefferson in Windsor.
All photos by Ted Kloske.