News Column

Broadway's hello to Dolly (Parton) gets area premiere

August 15, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 15--Working 9 to 5 -- what a way to make a living.

The popular 1980 film about women struggling at the office was the basis for the Dolly Parton Broadway musical.

Imagine Productions of Columbus is presenting the area premiere of 9 to 5: The Musical, continuing through Sunday at Wall Street Nightclub.

"The theme of rooting for the underdog is still relevant," said director Ryan Scarlatta, " whether the issue is women's rights, gays rights or diversity in the workplace."

Parton, who wrote the Oscar-nominated title song for the movie, and author Patricia Resnick, who wrote the story for the film, adapted the musical comedy about three female co-workers seeking revenge on their horrible boss.

Parton wrote the music and lyrics for 16 additional songs for the two-act stage version, which ran on Broadway in 2009 and received a Tony nomination for best score.

"Her music is peppy and very charismatic," Scarlatta said.

For instance, in the second act, the three co-workers lead the ensemble in singing Change It as they make a variety of improvements in working conditions while the boss is " away."

"It's an empowering song, involving the entire cast, about how, if something is broke, fix it," Scarlatta said. "These woman aren't taking no for an answer but are creating their own destiny."

Nancy Skaggs plays Violet opposite Abby Zeszotek as Doralee and Rachel Deep Verdi as Judy.

(In the movie, Lily Tomlin played Violet; Parton, in her first screen role, played Doralee; and Jane Fonda was Judy.) As the musical begins, a video featuring Parton establishes the play's era.

"Dolly Parton comes on the screen at the start and talks about how the story happens in a time when blackberries and apples were things she used to pick behind the barn," Scarlatta said.

The time was a difficult one for working women."I'm sure a lot of people have felt the same frustration as our characters, but I think it's difficult for modern women to remember how hard it was for women in the workplace years ago," she said.

Skaggs saw the movie for the first time in June while rehearsing her role.

"It's very funny, and I can see why it was such a huge hit," she said.

Unlike the movie, in which Judy was the lead role, the musical focuses on Violet.

"Violet is a fighter, self-reliant, strong and honest," Skaggs said.

"She doesn't want to threaten her position, but Violet also wants to advance. To get ahead, she recognizes that she has to play the game. A widow for three years with a teenage son, she's very cognizant of how important her job is to maintain the life of herself and her son."

Among Skagg's songs: Around Here, in which Violet describes to newcomer Judy how the office runs, and One of the Boys, in which Violet imagines what it would be like to be the first female CEO of her company, Consolidated Industries.

"In the best fantasy Broadway musical tradition, I get to do One of the Boys with a chorus of dancing boys," she said.

"It's a standard archetype of the leading lady to have dancing boys all around her -- and they're wonderful dancers -- but this is the first time I've done that in a show."

The song makes Skaggs feel like the lyrics suggest: the most beautiful, glamorous and brilliant businesswoman in the world.

"I think every woman should be able to do that once in a while."

mgrossberg@dispatch.com

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