Many great (and not-so-great) movies have had their origins on the stage. Hollywood saw the popularity of classics like “Camelot” and “Fiddler on the Roof” and brought them to a wider audience via film. But sometimes this oft-repeated process reverses, as with “The Lion King” and “Hairspray.” This is also the case with “9 to 5,” which is based on the 1980 film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, and is Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre’s current offering.
Set in what appears to be the late ’70s, most of the action takes place at a large, impersonal corporation. The show opens with high energy to the foot-stomping “9 to 5.” Everyone is waking up and heading to their dreary jobs at Consolidated Industries. During this number, we meet our three leading ladies. Judy is beginning her first day at Consolidated, having had to find a job after her husband squanders their money and leaves her for his secretary. Violet, office supervisor and widowed mom, takes Judy under her wing. Doralee is the buxom secretary constantly dealing with the lecherous Mr. Hart.
We watch as these women slowly find a bond in their struggle against the tide of chauvinism. When they finally decide to fight back, will they go too far? If you haven’t seen the movie, you just might be surprised.
The book is written by Patricia Resnick, with music and lyrics by the indomitable Dolly Parton, who played Doralee in the movie. Due to Ms. Parton’s often caricaturish appearance, it’s easy to forget what a truly talented songwriter she is, and this is a play full of wonderful songs, some haunting and some hilarious.
Director Michael Horn has put together a lively and enthusiastic cast, but his true stroke of perfection is the casting of his three leading ladies.
Jan McKenna is perfect as the ambitious Violet. She is professional and strong in her business suits, yet shows her vulnerable side when pursued by a colleague. Her duet “Let Love Grow,” with Joe, played earnestly by Brandon Hollborn, is particularly sweet.
As Doralee, the role Ms. Parton created for herself, Kimet Speed is hilarious in her “double Ds.” But she also wears her heart on her sleeve, as she does singing “Backwoods Barbie,” and she moves us.
Jayne Freeman, as Judy, conveys both innocence and strength, and is a standout among standouts. Her solo, “Get Out and Stay Out,” nearly brought down the house.
Another standout is Laura Nitti as Roz, the office busybody who is obsessed with Mr. Hart. She had the audience in tears of laughter (at least I was) during her performance of “Heart to Hart,” during which she shares her romantic fantasies.
James Zay plays the obnoxious Hart with just the right touch of slimy arrogance. The always enjoyable Rebecca Mincieli portrays Maria, a secretary who is undeservedly fired. Will someone give this young woman a lead role, please? Patti Hausch turns in a believable and hilarious performance as Margaret, the office lush.
The supporting cast is equally on target: Rick Sicoli, Meagan Schmid, Susan Ehlers, Alecki Lui, Glenn Abramowitz, Rowland Hautsch, Peter Dunbar, Amanda Mouzakes and Siri Fink. The ensemble is also great — synched and in the moment and believable: Kathleen Colihan, Kathryn Wever, Corinne Araneo, Pat Speed, Peter Nolan and Tony Peraza.
Anita Boyer’s choreography is packed with diversity and fun, and it’s worth noting as almost being a distinct character of its own — as is the tight orchestra led by musical director Marguerite Volonts. This orchestra is one of the best I’ve heard locally in a long time.
All the elements have come together for a super-fun evening of musical comedy. Congratulations to Mr. Horn and producer Patti Hautsch for a sure-fire hit.
Performances continue at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, at Riverhead High School. General admission, 15; students, $5 (at door only).