Amiable But Uneven ‘9 to 5’ at the Lake Worth Playhouse

If you’re in the mood for a moderately entertaining musical comedy sporting a tuneful country score, you’re likely to have an enjoyable night out at the Lake Worth Playhouse’s current production of 9 To 5

The show, which premiered on Broadway in 2008 and ran for a little over a year, is based on a 1980 movie that is perhaps most memorable for its catchy theme song by Dolly Parton, who went on to write the score for the musical. 

The show’s zany plot centers around three main characters: Violet, the high-strung and hyper-efficient career woman; Judy, the recent divorcee who has been forced into the workforce to fend for herself for the first time; and spunky country gal Doralee. The three form an unlikely bond as they gang up against their insufferable boss Franklin Hart.

But while much humor is wrung from the madcap lengths the women eventually go to to keep Hart out of their hair and usher in a new office order, the story mostly failed to engage me on an emotional level. Despite respectable performances from most of the cast, most of the score struck me largely as cookie cutter and forgettable, unnecessary diversions into the head of one character or another that had little to do with furthering the plot of the story, which, for much of Act 1, felt as if it was moving all too slowly.

Set design by Ardean Landhaus and costume design by Maya Suchy were generally up to par, with a few standout pieces such as minor character Tinsworthy’s striking all white suit or the impressively matching outfits of the entire female ensemble during one dance number. There were, though, a few noticeable incongruities, such as a male ensemble member whose toupee clearly didn’t match his graying beard. 

Another notable aspect of the particular performance that I attended is that a playbill informed me that two understudies would be appearing in that night’s cast, including Victoria Johnson in the lead role of Judy. Given that the Lake Worth Playhouse doesn’t traditionally HAVE understudies, one can assume that Johnson must have been thrown into the role without much notice, a fact made even more impressive by the fact that her bio states that she is just 14 years old! 

Understandably, I could detect some hints of nervousness in Johnson’s performance —while this was usually not at odds with what would one expect from her inhibited character, I noticed that her body language still mostly conveyed unease even in Judy’s triumphant 11 o clock anthem Get Out and Stay Out, in which the character is meant to be confidently asserting her independence.

However, this quality came second to what was an astonishing vocal performance of the number, as Johnson hit some incredible notes to obvious audience approval—perhaps I was lucky enough to stumble on a true star in the making!

Diane Tyminski also stood out for her confident portrayal of Violet, while Jim Tyminski, who I can only assume is of some relation, struck me as a little less vocally gifted but rich in personality as the tyrannical Hart. 

Of course, his singing probably wasn’t helped by the fact that he inexplicably performed “Here For You” without the backing music track that accompanied every other song in the show, though I suspect I may have found the song lackluster either way. Lines as stomach-turning as

Will I get those legs uncrossed?

Course I will, yeah, cause I’m the boss

felt a little uncomfortably not-funny in the post me too era—yes, this character is supposed to be a villain, but that doesn’t make his unbridled lust for the uninterested Doralee any easier to listen to, especially in a show that otherwise takes such a light tone.  

However, call this a double standard, but I was somewhat more amused by the number Heart To Hart, which gave Lenore Goldfeder a chance to shine as the shamelessly sexual Roz plotting a seduction of her boss, though it’s also true that her character is a little less overtly aggressive. 

In a mercifully shorter second act, the ladies’ scheming pays off in a happy ending that could probably be called a deus ex machina. Though the characters’ goals of a more inclusive, compassionate workplace are admirable, their way of going about them veers so far into fantasy that it almost struck me as a little paradoxically depressing because of how rarely such simple workplace standards are realized in real life. 

But, of course, maybe I’m also being too dark-heartedly harsh on the ultimately amiable escapism of 9 to 5, which will be running until this January 30thyou could do far worse things with your out of work hours than taking in this workplace comedy!

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