What a way to make a living
Maui OnStage’s ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ is an isle premiere
Nine years ago I began reading about Dolly Parton’s musical adaptation of “9 to 5” in “Variety.” The ongoing stories offered mixed reviews of its tryouts in Los Angeles, praising its stars Stephanie J. Block, Allison Janney and Megan Hilty, but suggesting the show was too long and not ready for Broadway.
Parton went back to the drawing board cutting six songs and overseeing a streamlining of its book by Patricia Resnick (co-author of the 1980 film and the 1992 Parton film vehicle “Straight Talk.”). The revised and condensed “9 to 5 The Musical” opened on Broadway six months later receiving four Tony nominations and running for five months.
The show was condensed a second time when it was fast-tracked to tour and opened in Nashville in 2010. Not unlike “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy,” “9 to 5 The Musical” has achieved greater success on the road, with a United States and United Kingdom tour through 2013, a Portuguese-translated version tour in Brazil in 2015, followed by a German translation tour in 2016. Only recently made available for regional and community theaters to produce, the Maui premiere of “9 to 5 The Musical” will open at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku July 14.
The original film, which starred Dabney Coleman, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin was a holiday hit in 1980, and also marked Parton’s acting debut. Fonda co-produced and cast the film based on her own idea. At the time, Fonda was searching for a project similar to 1939’s “The Women,” which starred Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer.
A friend of hers had started an association for female office workers in Boston called “9 to 5,” and after attending a meeting, Fonda was drawn to the stories and commissioned Resnick, later adding Colin Higgins, to write a screenplay.
Fonda has previously said she wanted the focus of the film to be on women who began working later in life, and encouraged Resnick and Higgins to tell a story that you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries.
If you’re unfamiliar with the film and story, three female coworkers, Violet (Lina Aiko Krueger), Judy (Katherine Holtkamp) and Doralee (Lia Krieg-DeSouza) concoct a plan to get even with their sexist and egotistical boss, Mr. Hart (Jerry Eiting), by kidnapping him and taking over the office.
I asked the three local female leads if they thought the staying power of “9 to 5” had something to do with it being conceived, written, produced and cast almost entirely by women.
“Comedy has a way of being a much more effective and lasting polemic. I think that ‘9 to 5’ has endured because the troubling conditions that the women of “Consolidated” (the name of the fictional company in ‘9 to 5’) face in the story still persist today,” said Holtkamp.
Krieg-DeSouza echoed those thoughts.
“The current political climate almost makes this show just as relevant as it was 37 years ago. I have to admit, being the target of Hart’s blatant sexual harassment is tough. It brings back feelings that I’ve had in certain situations in my life, and even though it’s a comedy, the show does a good job of making sure the audience knows that it is not OK.
“I think the story is one we fight every day as women in some sort of sense,” continued Krieg-De-Souza. “Whether it’s being catcalled on the street, to being looked over for certain jobs or services, it’s definitely still relevant.”
“Women continue to get passed over for promotions in favor of similarly qualified men,” added Holtkamp. “This is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t provide paid parental leave. And sexual harassment in the workplace is still a battle that women must fight every day without avail.”
“I did not know the movie was written by a woman when it came out in the ’80s — I don’t think that was the point. I think the point was that it did resonate with a lot of people,” said Krueger.
I asked her if she thought that’s why the film has lasted so long within pop culture.
“Sure. Write what you know, right?” said Krueger. “It also didn’t hurt that they cast three icons from three different genres, each with a huge following.”
Krueger, Holtkamp and Krieg-DeSouza all have to juggle nine-to-five day jobs in their real lives while they volunteer to perform in Maui productions once or twice a year. I asked all three why they picked “9 to 5.”
“Once I knew that most of my theater friends were auditioning, I jumped at the chance. We do this voluntarily, so I’d rather spend my summer vacation having fun with really great and talented people,” said Krieg-DeSouza.
“Seeing as I’ve only lived on Maui for a little over two years, and I’m still building relationships with the community, I audition for shows that are on my ‘bucket list’ or that I feel would be a fun challenge for me as a performer,” said Holtkamp. “With ‘9 to 5,’ I wanted to stretch myself more as I don’t go out for many shows where I have to use my comedic chops. As a performer, I feel that my training is never finished and I am always hungry to learn more about my craft.”
“I’m too short to be Mary Poppins,” added Krueger.
I wondered if the trio had any childhood memories of a working mother or relatives in the 1970s and ’80s and whether or not things have really changed for working women.
“Yes, of course, some things have changed — and yet, some minds have stayed the same,” said Krueger.
“My mom was always a bad-ass,” said Krieg-DeSouza. “She was Maui County’s Director of Personnel Services for years. At her retirement both the Chief of Police and the Fire Chief both recounted about how she had made them cry at one point in their careers. I guess you could say she was Violet. She was a single mom who worked her way to the top. You don’t mess with her.”
Krueger recounted her more rural Maui upbringing.
“I remember the walk to the ol’ schoolhouse, carrying a lunch bucket and a slate. I remember Ma scrubbing clothes down by the crick, then Dad telling us to turn off ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and come to dinner,” joked Krueger.
Tomorrow night the cast will perform sneak preview excerpts from the musical as part of the First Friday festivities. The free previews will take place at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Historic Iao Theater.
“It’s a story about women, for women and by women. Somehow, I feel that men wouldn’t have even told this story in the first place,” said Holtkamp.
* Maui OnStage presents the island premiere of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5 The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, book by Patricia Resnick, direction and choreography by Kalani Whitford and under the co-musical direction of Kim and Richard Vetterli.
“Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music.” When the new music teacher’s instruments go missing, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird and more come to the rescue and discover instruments they never knew existed. Children learn that everyone can make and enjoy beautiful music together.
* Performances are at 6:30 p.m. July 21; 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5:30 p.m. July 22; and 1 and 4:30 p.m. July 24 in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets range from $15 to $75 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “Disney’s Mulan Jr.,” based on the film “Mulan” and the story “Fa Mulan” by Robert D. San Souci, with music and lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Jeanine Tesori and Alexa Junge, co-directed by Kathleen Schulz and Logan Heller, under the co-musical direction of Danielle Mealani Delaunay.
* Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays July 21 through July 30 in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Reserved seating tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children. General admission tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children. To purchase tickets or for more information visit www.mauiacademy.org.
Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “Willy Wonka Kids,” based on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, with music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, directed by Alexis Dascoulias.
* Performances are at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays, July 22 through July 30 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. To purchase tickets call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.