Parton's 9 to 5 coming to Broadway

July 15, 2008 5:54:40 PM PDT
"It's the most fun I've ever had as a songwriter," Dolly Parton twanged Tuesday as she announced that the stage version of "9 to 5: The Musical" would open on Broadway next spring. "I feel like Minnie Pearl! I'm just so glaaaad to be here," cooed Parton, a petite vision in tight white pedal pushers and the highest of white high heels. The country superstar stood in a Times Square studio with the cast and creative team for the musical, which is in its second week of rehearsal before heading out of town. It opens in New York on April 23 at the Marquis Theatre.

The show, based on the 1980 film in which Parton starred with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, begins a tryout Sept. 3 in Los Angeles at the Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theater. An official opening is set there for Sept. 21 for a run through Oct. 19.

The musical will star Allison Janney in the Tomlin role, Stephanie J. Block in Fonda's part and Megan Hilty in Parton's role as a sexy executive secretary. The plot concerns three office workers who plot against their sexist boss, played by Marc Kudisch. The musical will be directed by Joe Mantello, the director of "Wicked."

"9 to 5" is based on "a nonmusical film that has an amazing piece of music associated with it. It didn't make a lot of sense to get another composer," said producer Robert Greenblatt, who with book writer Patricia Resnick - who wrote the movie's screenplay - persuaded Parton to work on the theater adaptation.

"When they asked me if I would write the music, I said I would try," said Parton, who will have about 20 new songs in the show. "I don't know that much about Broadway. It's a little bit out of my league. So I went home and I prayed about it. ... (Then) I got into it and I really acted out all the parts. I was glad I was by myself a lot."

The film, now nearly three decades old, was born after Resnick saw an item in the show-biz trade papers that Fonda wanted to do a movie about secretaries and work with Tomlin and Parton.

"Lily Tomlin had given me my first writing job, which was my only other little flirt with Broadway," explained Resnick who had written some monologues for Tomlin's first Broadway show as well as a sketch for Parton for a Cher special.

"I met with Jane and she had a lot that she wanted to say about clerical workers. I came back with basically just a one-liner: 'What if we do three secretaries who hate their boss and want to kill him?'

"People sometimes ask me how `9 to 5' is still relevant - in spite of the fact that when I first did it, the words 'sexual harassment' were not in the lexicon - that phrase didn't exist," Resnick continued. "I think a lot of things haven't changes as much as one would have hoped.

"This isn't a show just for women or about women. It's about the workplace. It's an anti-authority piece. Anyone who's had ... an errant boss can relate."

"9 to 5" as well as "Billy Elliot" and "Shrek the Musical" are among the most anticipated shows of the 2008-09 season. Although not as expensive as the other two, "9 to 5" has four principal actors plus a supporting cast of 26 and nearly two dozen scene changes. Greenblatt declined to talk about production costs, but these days shows of similar scope and size usually cost between $12 million and $15 million.

Preview performances for "9 to 5" in New York begin March 24.

And Parton, getting ready for the Los Angeles engagement, has a practical, down-home attitude about what has been created.

"I don't know how good it is. I just hope that it's good," she said. "I had a great time doing it. They (the production team) all say it's good. But we won't know until the next morning after we open."