'9 to 5, The Musical'

Port Hope's Capitol Theatre

Sam Moffatt

Joe Szekeres

When a musical theatre production of a feature film is so damn entertaining, you just want to make sure it gets the garnered attention it deserves. Get to see ‘9 to 5’ because word will get out just how good it is.

‘9 to 5, The Musical’ now onstage at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre deservedly earned its standing ovation at the curtain call from the show I attended.

It is so damn entertaining that I want to shout out loud how you must get to see it because it is terrific and so much fun.

Based on the 1980 feature film screenplay, we are introduced to three downtrodden ladies: Violet (Julia Juhas) who trained the boss at one time. She is a widow raising her teenage son. Violet knows a great deal about the company but is treated as a secretary by the Boss. There is a newcomer to the office Judy (Krystle Chance) whose husband left her for a much younger woman. Doralee (Kelly Holiff) is the buxom personal secretary to Boss Franklin Hart Jr. (Andrew Scanlon). We also meet Roz (Gabi Epstein) who is Hart’s “eyes, ears, nose, and throat” spy within the office.

Violet, Judy, and Doralee have had enough of Hart’s chauvinistic attitude and demeanour so they plot their revenge to kidnap him and keep him away from the company so changes can be made whereby everyone feels valued in the work they do.

I remember reading the Broadway production did not run for as long as it was expected. Some may argue the show might be outdated for its stereotypical presentation of male chauvinism or any connection to the #metoo movement.

Forget doing that.

If anything, this ‘9 to 5’ flips the metoo movement on its head. Before anyone misinterprets this statement, Director Rob Kempson is not downplaying, ignoring, or poking fun at this horrific behaviour of men towards women. Instead, these intelligent women paved the way forward to combat this deplorable treatment through implausibility that provokes much laughter, and God knows we all need to smile and laugh right now.

Let me count the ways in which I loved how the Capitol’s production made me do just that.

For one, Kempson and Music Director Chris Barillaro pay glorious loving detail to character development, to the fluid movement in staging and the marvelous harmonies in music. Once again, I remember reading somewhere Rob adores Parton’s music and had always wanted to stage ‘9 to 5’. I hope I’m right in remembering this, Rob because your work in bringing this story to life becomes that refreshing drink of humour to quench ourselves.

The first thing I noticed when I sat down was Brandon Kleiman’s attractive geometric art form in creating a corner of a downtown office building. It’s quite effective and creates the illusion this building is large. Kleiman was also in charge of costume designs which boldly reflected the colours and flair of the 1980s.

Chris Barillaro’s sensational music direction heightens many scenes in plot and character development. Backwards Barbie’ is poignantly sung by Kelly Holiff who inherently understood the intent of the song. We hear the voice of a woman who is trying to fit in amidst the horrible rumours flying around the office of her extra-marital affair with Hart. Holif allowed the emotions of the song to run not only through the lyrics but also through her face and eyes.

Judy’s solo ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ gracefully and stoically sung by Krystle Chance was another moment where she too also understood the intent meant not only to send her ex-husband on his way but more importantly for her never to allow that kind of influence to enter her life ever again. I was on every word sung by Holif and Chance and I applaud them for moving me and making me pay attention.

Julie Juhas’s heartfelt duet ‘Let Love Go’ with the nice young accountant Joe (Robbie Fenton) is sweet without that horrible saccharine aftertaste. I was quietly rooting for them at the end of their song.

Julie Tomaino’s dazzling and spirited choreography electrically charges and amply fills the Capitol stage. Every inch of space is utilized to its fullest. Two numbers to pay attention to: ‘One of the Boys’ (with Violet and the Male Ensemble) and the opening and closing title songs. My eyes constantly moved while trying to capture what every person was doing.

I must acknowledge the slick work of this adroit ensemble who terrifically upped the ante in such veritable Broadway-style numbers ‘Around Here’ and ‘One of the Boys’. The seamless scene change shifts remain tautly nimble that I wanted to see how the ensemble might top themselves next.

Gabi Epstein is a riot as Hart’s office spy, Roz, and what a set of pipes when she winningly soared in ‘Heart to Hart’ and ‘5 to 9’. What a theatrical treat to watch Andrew Scanlon’s lecherous and immoral Franklin Hart, Jr. in his showstopping number ‘Here for You’ to reveal the man’s world mentality in his attempted seduction of Doralee in his office. I haven’t laughed that loud for such a long time, so I thank Scanlon for giving me that opportunity.

Julia Juhas, Kelly Holiff and Krystle Chance are top-notch and consistently remain so throughout the show. Thankfully they have not looked to re-create Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton or Jane Fonda in their performances. I saw flesh and blood people here who struggled and fought and who celebrated what they have achieved regarding equity, equality, and fair play.

Yes, these qualities from the 1980s are not the same as they are today. But this ‘9 to 5’ let me see just how far we have come. And along with music and laughter backing this up, we are in for one hell of a great evening of entertainment.

Final Comments: ‘9 to 5’ is that feel-good summer show we all need right now. Run or call to get tickets because the word’s going to get out just how good this show is.

Running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

‘9 to 5, The Musical’ runs to September 4 at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen Street. For tickets, call 905-885-1071 or visit capitoltheatre.com for more information.

‘9 to 5, The Musical’
Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Book by Patricia Resnick

Director: Rob Kempson; Music Director: Chris Barrillaro Choreographer: Julie Tomaino
Set and Costume Designer: Brandon Kleiman Lighting Designer: Michelle Ramsay
Sound Designer: Ben Whiteman Stage Manager: Lucy McPhee

Band: Chris Barillaro, Matt Ray, Jason O’Brien, David Schotzko

Performers: Julie Juhas, Kelly Holiff, Krystle Chance, Andrew Scanlon, Gabi Epstein, Sofia Contal, Caitlin McKeon, Jenny Weisz, Malinda Carroll, Robbie Fenton, Jonathan Patterson, Tyler Pearse, Dave Comeau, Travae Williams

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