Workday musical opens strong at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

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By Bob Evans

Leave it to Dolly Parton to expand on her Top 40 hit, “9 to 5″ by writing more music–enough to fill a Broadway show and allow the adaption of the popular film to become a Broadway hit and become a standard for theater companies throughout the USA.

In the show, hellbent on providing a good time, the most horrible, sexist, womanizing, Chauvinistic pig of a boss rules the roost in the office until three women take matters into their own hands, showing the boss how a woman’s thoughts and ideas cam improve the productivity and bottom line. Innovative, creative ideas turn disgruntled employees into a happy, inspired, efficient team.

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Not only does the perky musical open with the title song, it features a cavalcade of tunes from Patron’s pen, including “Backwoods Barbie.” For the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, “9 to 5″ means guaranteed sold out shows, so plan ahead. Karen Paisley, artistic director for the MET, again snagged fabulous voices and actors for the whimsical musical comedy. Count on Paisley to always deliver top-notch actors and voices as needed.

Her trio of secretaries (before the days of administrative assistants) Judy, Katie Karel; Violet, Leah Swank Miller; and DoraLee, Hannah Freeman, rule the show from start to finish. Their two main adversaries add the humor and more strong voices in the persons of John Carey as Hart, and Valerie Dykes as Roz. Each of the main characters belt out solos, some funny, others poignant as the show moves quickly and relatively smoothly.

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Opening night, Saturday, May 13, brought a capacity crowd that laughed and honored the show with thunderous applause with shout-outs after some numbers. All in the realm of good fun, “9 to 5″ gives a feel good feeling from the opening notes all the way through the finale. Act I contained some technical glitches with sound, but those issues ceased by Act II. The show contains a lot of scene and prop changes, so the flow is slightly interrupted for prop movement, but that’s to be expected with a multiple set production. The sets moved quickly and easily on and off stage.

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Katie Karel gives a good performance as Judy, a recently divorced woman with no office experience and absolutely zero confidence. Leah Swank Miller plays Violet the efficient office manager struggling to balance office life with being a single parent to a teenage son. DoraLee, a perky, curvy, country-raised Barbie explodes with Hanna Freeman bringing the Dolly Parton character to life and song. As for the mean, vicious, arrogant boss, Hart, John Cleary delivers a strong voiced character and gives a sleazy-slimy caricature of a lying, bigoted oaf (who shall remain nameless). The office “dictator” Roz adds more comedy with her lustful song about her affection for the boss who never notices her. (For us older persons, it’s like the character of Schutlzie on the old Love that Bob TV show of the mid 1950s.) And for a love interest, who could better fill the bill than K.C.’s Jeff Smith, singing and dancing his way into Violet’s heart?

Top to bottom “9 to 5″ features strong casting even in the supporting roles, most notable, Margaret, the office lush, played by Cori Ann Weber. Also, Ray Zarr appears as Tinsworthy who helps resolve possible problems toward the end of the musical.

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The production team for “9 to 5″ by Patricia Resnick and Dolly Patron, is led by Karen Paisley, director, Loren Bridge, musical director; Leah Swank Miller, choreographer. The production team is Karen Paisley, production design; Michelle Cowles, stage manager; Shannon Regnier, costume design; Marc Manley, props master; James Paisley, sound operator; and Brandon Hedger, running crew. The construction crew is: James Paisley, Elizabeth Bowman, Karen Paisley, Tim MacDonald, Greg Smith, Barrie Smith, John Cleary, Nicholas Relic, Bob Paisley, Scott Wilson, Brandon Hedger, Carla Chamblee.

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The cast is: Leah Swank Miller as Violet, Katie Karel as Judy, Hannah Freeman as Doralee, John Cleary as Franklin Hart, Jeff Smith as Joe, Valerie Bracken Dykes as Roz, Chelcie Abercrombie as Barbara, Deanne Mazdra as Kathy, Cori Ann Weber as Margaret, Olivia Cabrera as Maria, Lauren Pope as Missy, Ray Zarr as Tinsworthy, Sam Culver as Josh, Scott Salem as Bob Enright, Andrew Joseph Brown as Milton, Michael Golliher as Dwayne, Brandon Hedger as New Employee.

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The orchestra which plays so importantly in musicals is led by Loren Bridge, conductor. His orchestra members are: Pat Watson, piano; Shannon Lawrence, guitar; Bob Paisley, guitar; Ernesto Flores, bass; David Cunningham, trumpet; Cody Young, trumpet; Chacko Finn, trombone; Gerald Turner, reeds; Kameron Sheffielf, reeds; Julian Goff, percussion.

Metropolitan Ensemble theatre’s production of the Dolly Parton hit, “9 to 5″ continues through May 21. Tickets to the MET’s season ending musicals usually draw capacity crowds. This light-hearted production is no exception. The MET encourages advance ticket purchase to avoid shut outs at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at the MET box office website.

 

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Tags:  Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, “9 to 5”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City  Musical Theater

Images courtesy of Bob Evans and Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

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