Review: "9 to 5" at Prince William Little Theatre

PWLT.jpg

Christian Jost

  • Contributing Critic

Musical adaptations of movies are all the rage right now, and for good reason. They’re easily recognizable, thus drawing in large audiences. “9 to 5” is no exception, with its timeless music and story. Dolly Parton, an original star in the film, penned the musical's lyrics and music, while Patricia Resnick wrote the book. Prince William Little Theatre staged a rather entertaining production of this show which I am glad I saw, over this past weekend. I will say, I was unsure of the depth/message the show would send but I was surprised by the timely themes of harassment and female empowerment brought to the stage. The show follows three women as they deal with their horrid boss, a ruthless misogynist until they hatch a plan to keep him out of the office and make changes on their own.

Violet Newstead, arguably the shows lead character, was played very well by Jolene Vettese. Vettese had the most dynamic character to take on and she prevailed, acting and singing with purpose and flair. While Violet Newstead is a long-time employee of “Consolidated Inc,” Judy Bernly is brand-new and was played flawlessly by Christine Laird. Laird was a perfect example of a singer far better than the material given. While the music in “9 to 5” is fun and entertaining, it wouldn’t be described as difficult. Laird could handle much more difficult material, as she sailed by this score with ease. The actress I believed the most as a character in the setting of the show was Laura Mills, as Doralee Rhodes. Mills acted the best out of all the leads, always seeming in the moment and completely involved in the story. I can’t say with certainty how much accent work Mills did but it seemed very authentic, only leaving for brief moments while hitting the higher notes in her register. The three had great chemistry. The standout performance of the show came from Melanie McCleerey as Roz Keith (A higher ranking company member obsessed with the boss). I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor go for it as much as McCleerey did, ever, including Broadway. The fearlessness, bravery, and talent that goes into a performance like hers should not only be commended but Idolized as well. She alone is worth the price of admission.

I judge the success of any production on the strength of its ensemble, and my goodness were there some stars in this one. Some ensemble members deliberately draw your eye and behave poorly by distracting from the leads on stage, and some just draw your attention because they are too talented to ignore. The latter was true of Debbie Frank, who just excelled at every possible turn, being invested and believable without stealing focus. I truly hope to see her out of the ensemble and into center stage very soon. Other notable standouts in the ensemble were Becca Harney, Andrew Morin, and Alex Tyree (who needs a better show where he can really showcase his dance abilities).

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, PWLT puts together an orchestra better than anyone in the DMV area. They are always on cue, on pitch, and on tempo. A huge “job well done” to James Maxted, musical director, for his work on this show. I wouldn’t say choreography was always needed each time it was presented, but when it was used it appeared crisp. Falling into the realm of minimal yet effective. Congrats to Melanie Marie McGuin and her assistant Jonathan Fair on their work. Melissa Jo York-Tilley handled the production's direction and I can say she did a very good job, with the show flowing very well. I can’t pinpoint one actor who seemed lost or one song that seemed underworked. Those two things equal excellent direction in my book.

9 to 5 has only ONE more weekend planned, the 19th-21st. I highly recommend this show for the performances on stage and the orchestra above it!

More info can be found here: www.pwlt.org