Theater review: 9 to 5: The Musical

11030_show_landscape_large_03October 10, 2014 – “There’s a short in the trunk.”

That line from the movie “9 to 5”, as uttered by Lily Tomlin to Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda, still makes me laugh when I think about it.

The three women were driving around town with a dead body in the trunk of their car, hoping to dispose of it because they thought it was their boss, and they thought they killed him. A police officer pulls them over because a back tail light is out on the car, and suggests the reason is there’s a short in the trunk. When Tomlin repeats the line to her co-workers, the look on their faces is priceless.

Other than the broad storyline, which focuses on three women trying to make it in the workplace while fighting off sexual harassment, (it was 1980, after all) it is the only part of the movie I can remember clearly.

When I joined the theater group at work, and discovered the first play we’d see at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia would be “9 to 5: The Musical”, I immediately thought of that hilarious scene. I didn’t expect to see that scene in last night’s performance due to stage limitations, but I did expect to laugh. Unfortunately, the performance seemed dated to me, and although I enjoy live theater, I much preferred the movie over the musical. The audience seemed to disagree with me, however, and laughed heartily through one silly production number after another. I can’t blame it on the actors, who all had more than enough talent, but I did find the scene changes distracting, as I focused on moving desks and file cabinets more than the dancing and singing.

I expect I’d feel the same way if I saw the movie again from 34 years ago, as I did about the stage production last night. I’d probably  still chuckle at Tomlin’s deadpan delivery of that line, but the rest of the story wouldn’t keep my attention.

While “9 to 5: The Musical” wasn’t the laugh fest I expected, and I wouldn’t recommend it, the rest of the Walnut Street Theater season looks promising. Next up, “Mary Poppins” in December.

 

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