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Theater preview: Musical '9 to 5' retains original 'entertaining story'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 11 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

Adrien Swenson (Judy Bernly), Bonnie Whitlock (Violet Newstead) and Angie Winegar (Doralee Rhodes), from left, play the secretaries who take revenge on their loathsome boss in the Hale Centre Theatre's "9 to 5."

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WEST VALLEY CITY — When “9 to 5” was released in movie theaters in 1980, it was the year’s second-highest-grossing film — after a little sci-fi flick called “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Unless George Lucas again intervenes, the Hale Centre Theatre plans to make the regional premiere of the musical version of “9 to 5” a bona fide No. 1 stage hit.

“The story is a very clean transfer from screen to stage,” says director John Sweeney. “Along with the iconic ‘9 to 5’ title song, there are also some even better songs added to the musical that people will walk out of the theater remembering, like ‘Shine Like the Sun’ and ‘Get Out and Stay Out,’ two songs that immediately come to mind.”

In movie’s revenge fantasy story line, three prominent actresses played the underappreciated secretaries — Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton) and Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin). They fight back against the sexist regime that runs their company and confront their “autocratic, sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” boss, Franklin Hart Jr. (Dabney Coleman), eventually taking him hostage using a repurposed garage door opener.

“Some of the iconic moments that you remember from the movie are there in the musical, such as the spunk that Doralee shows when she first fights back against Hart,” the director relates. “There’s also the fantasy sequence, when we see how each woman would live out her dream about how she would rub out Hart. And we’ve expanded upon those dreams and make very colorful vignettes that go along with the music to explore what is really in the minds of these women.”

While “9 to 5” is now most closely associated with Parton, for penning the title song, Fonda developed the film concept and was the driving force behind the movie. For the stage adaptation, Parton worked with the original scriptwriter and wrote additional songs. The show premiered on Broadway in 2009 but, despite a $14 million investment, closed after 148 performances.

“Even though it didn’t play on Broadway for a long time, ‘9 to 5’ is great material and a lot of fun,” Sweeney says. “The music is quite creative and complex. Quite honestly, the song in Act 2, ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ sung by Judy Bernly, is probably one of the best belting songs that I’ve heard on Broadway in the last decade.

“While the entire cast is exceptional, we’re really fortunate to have Adrien Swenson and Angela Jeffries double-cast in the Jane Fonda role. In terms of combination singer and actress, Adrien and Angela are two of the best in Utah today.”

The original story of “9 to 5” reflected on the recent phenomenon of women moving up the corporate ladder as the pink-collar workforce becomes more empowered. Under a thicker glass ceiling in suburban cubicle-land, a male executive felt comfortable asking “his girl” to bring him coffee and perform similar demeaning tasks.

“At the time the movie came out, equal rights for women was a very popular topic,” Sweeney explains. “There was a lot of discussion of women not getting paid the same amount for the same job that a man did. Also, men in some ways were taking advantage of that situation. The story is a lighthearted look at women trying to get ahead in the working world.”

Sweeney believes audiences will enjoy “9 to 5” for its “entertaining story. The dance sequences that we’ve built in are really enjoyable. You’ll come to the show and have the opportunity to both laugh and cry with the characters as they talk about their struggles in life as well as enjoy the moments in which they succeed. It is about a good time, but it’s also about characters who are real and we identify with.”

If you go

What: “9 to 5”

Where: Hale Centre Theatre

When: Aug. 15-Sept. 29, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

How much: $24-$15

Tickets: 801-984-9000 or halecentretheatre.org

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