It’s time for the spring musical at Suze’s Prescott Center for the Arts! Director Klay Brackney Wandelear is excited: “The late-spring musical is always something big, powerful and important – like 9 to 5.”
9 to 5: The Musical, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, is based on the 1980 movie of the same name. It’s the story of three female coworkers who form an unlikely friendship in the Rolodex era, in a workplace where women are undervalued and overworked. These women, finding themselves pushed to the edge, concoct a plan to get even with their boss, a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.
This Tony-nominated musical features a large, mostly female cast, with energetic dance numbers choreographed by Clinton Slay. Although the musical is fun and campy, there is still a message behind the lightheartedness. As Wandelear says, the plot of 9 to 5 “shows that when you turn the tide of power, when you give the power to those who are actually running the company, when you give the power to those people whom you didn’t consider with respect, you didn’t consider them to have valid opinions, you didn’t consider them as people, you improve every facet of the company, every facet of life, every facet of society as a whole.”
The motion picture 9 to 5 was born from a relationship between Jane Fonda and Karen Nussbaum, the co-founder and first director of the women’s office-worker group of the same name. Renamed in 1983 as 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, the organization is celebrating its fiftieth year, still fighting a lot of the same issues. Right now, women make on average 80 cents to the dollar that men earn for the same work. Two-thirds of workers that make minimum wage (or less) are women. Although it began in 2006, #MeToo, the social movement about sexual abuse and harassment, made national headlines in 2020.
All these things tell us that although the movie and musical are set over fifty years ago, the struggles facing working women remain current in 2023. Many of the stories told in the production came directly from the early members sharing stories of their experiences in late-‘70s male-dominated companies.
Although women’s issues are still prevalent in modern-day work situations, there are things that may seem unfamiliar to the younger generations. First and foremost, the title alone. It's unusual these days to find an employee who works what used to be the standard hours of nine to five. Both Millennials and Gen-Zers are working multiple jobs more often than any of their generational predecessors. With working from home combined with working extended hours, gig working and shift work, the concept of working a standard day is lost on many. When you add the environmental touches of electric typewriters, transfer paper and steno pools, 9 to 5 may be a trip down memory lane for some, and completely foreign to others.
Discussing the process of play selection and the direction that Suze’s PCA is taking, Wandelear says, “Suze’s PCA is ever-changing, ever-evolving, we’re getting new board members, new staff, all kinds of stuff, and everybody brings a new perspective to it, brings their own opinions and their own thoughts and feelings about what is appropriate for this town, what is appropriate to put on stage, what is appropriate to perpetuate.” There is a lot involved in choosing the productions that the theatre company presents. Members of the theatrical community, members of the board, and members of the community are encouraged to submit suggestions for the season. The shows are then reviewed by the play-selection committee, the board and Executive Director Robyn Allen.
This musical is the penultimate production in the company’s 2022–23 season, which will wrap with 12 Angry Jurors in the first two weeks of June. Wandelear, who also serves as the company’s technical director, says, “This season especially we’ve been pushing the boundary a bit more for Suze’s PCA, with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Clean House, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, all really powerful, important themes for a community.
9 to 5: The Musical will play May 11-28, 2023 at Suze’s Prescott Center for the Arts. For tickets and information visit prescottartcenter.org.