Lovers of musical theater whose rear ends are numb and eyes swollen from 160 minutes of Les Misérables will find sweet relief in the cheeky, perky 9 to 5, the Dolly Parton musical that comes in at about 100 minutes (including intermission) of non-stop fun at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre through Feb. 24.
Set in a 1979 office where men are boys and women are sex objects, 9 to 5 is the next step in the female resistance movement started in Mad Men days. You won't sob as you might have during Les Miz, but you will roll your eyes and shake your head that in half century since the women's movement started, so little has changed. (Perhaps the economic recession has gotten at least some of the guys off the golf course and back into the office. And several lawsuits have almost stopped the tacky, insulting "jokes" and unwelcome neck massages.)
The good part is that the spunky office maven Violet (Susan Haldeman) hasn't given up on climbing the corporate ladder, Doralee (Nicole Borysowicz) hasn't given up on her music dreams and office newbie Judy (Heather Baird) hasn't given up on life, despite no work skills and a philandering husband, who has left her for a 19-year-old bimbo.
In 9 to 5, these office rivals band together to outsmart their insensitive, bigoted, sexist, lecherous boss, Mr. Hart (a totally delightful Pete Clapsis — watch his moves during the fantasy Cowgirl's Revenge), and it's done with the help of a very appealing fellow named Joe (the ruggedly hunky Justin Lore), proving that all 9 to 5 men aren't evil.
Ms. Haldeman is rock solid as the sensible Violet, mother of teenager Josh (John Michael) and leader of the office pack. The audience not only gets to enjoy her marvelous voice (Let Love Grow, Around Here and the hilarious Potion Notion), they get to see her comedy, dramatic and even dance prowess. Ms. Haldeman has been outstanding in many supporting and ensemble roles (Domina in Funny/Forum, Vera in Mame), but this is her moment to, as the first-act closer goes, Shine Like the Sun — and it's about time. She is a star.
Ms. Borysowicz is a darling as Doralee, perhaps the toughest spot to pull off, since the role is so solidly identified with Ms. Parton (and the intrusive, but contract-required filmed segues by Ms. Parton remind in case someone has forgotten). Ms. Baird's Judy seems to grow as the play progresses, reaching an audience-pleasing crest with Get Out and Stay Out in the penultimate number.
And Jill Godfrey is a hoot as Hart's love-starved office wife, Roz Keith, emoting over the undeserving boss' photo and writhing with passion at the very thought of him. Note: Pay close attention to the Mega Mix report on Roz's love life after the finale.
Others to note include Amanda Cheyenne Manis as the lovely Hart victim Maria and Leanne Germann as the office lush swigging gin and staggering around making wisecracks.
The 18-member cast does it all with zip and humor, aided by set designer Tom Hansen's disco-era color block framing, choreographer Ericka Brown's snappy moves, director Karla Hartley's deft guidance and music director Michael T. Sebastian's lively and live-sounding tracks.
Indeed, the whole show proves once again that with good performers, an entertaining story and solid staging, the Show Palace can do it right up there with the best of 'em.