Hoopla

Who's the boss now?

Women turn tables on office ogre in Revival Theatre's '9 to 5'

ALISABETH VON PRESLEY

Franklin Hart Jr. (Tim Riven) finds himself tied up on the downside of office politics when the women wiggle out from under his thumb to pour a cup of ambition in “9 to 5: The Musical,” opening Thursday and running through Saturday in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. Showing him who’s the boss are (from left) Jordan Arnold as Judy Bernly, Nina Swanson as Violet Newstead and Cindy Shadrick as Doralee Rhodes.
ALISABETH VON PRESLEY Franklin Hart Jr. (Tim Riven) finds himself tied up on the downside of office politics when the women wiggle out from under his thumb to pour a cup of ambition in “9 to 5: The Musical,” opening Thursday and running through Saturday in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. Showing him who’s the boss are (from left) Jordan Arnold as Judy Bernly, Nina Swanson as Violet Newstead and Cindy Shadrick as Doralee Rhodes.

The glass ceiling is about to come crashing down this weekend, when three women singing very different tunes find their common voice.

Revival Theatre Company is punching a 1970s time clock that still is ticking today, with “9 to 5: The Musical.” The fully-staged production opens tonight (3/14) and runs through Saturday (3/16) in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

It’s the story of how straight-shooter Violet Newstead (played by Nina Swanson), vulnerable Judy Bernly (Jordan Arnold) and spitfire Doralee Rhodes (Cindy Shadrick) join forces to teach a thing or two or three to their chauvinistic boss, Franklin Hart Jr. (Tim Riven). At the end of the disco decade, his attitude and their office environment are long overdue for a redo if they’re going to keep stayin’ alive.

Fast-forward 40 years, and their concerns continue to resonate in the #MeToo era.

“These ladies’ stories are always going to be relevant,” said Brian Glick, the show’s artistic director. “But you’re going to have two points of view of this. You’re going to have people who worked as a secretary in an office in the ’70s, which is a very different point of view. Then you’re going to have people since then, and today, who have dealt with these issues in various different forms.”

“It’s universal,” Swanson said.

“It is universal, and it’s not just the women, it’s the men, too,” Glick noted, adding that his mom, who was a secretary for 40 years, said women didn’t have a voice back then, were told which men to avoid, and just minded their business.

“Shoving people under the rug — the #MeToo movement has exposed that that’s not accepted anymore,” Glick said. “People aren’t going to keep it quiet anymore. They’re going to speak up for themselves.”

“My mom is CFO of a bank, and started as a teller, so my whole life has been her teaching me, ‘This is how you play the game with men,’” said Shadrick, 36, of Cedar Rapids. “ ... Yes, we’d love to think we’ve progressed since 1979. We’re still playing the game.”

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In the musical, the frustrating, unfair scenarios are wrapped in fun music, revenge fantasies and preposterous situations enacted to get a point across. It’s based on the hit 1980 film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman.

The musical, which hit Broadway in 2009, garnered four Tony nominations, including a nod for Parton’s country-pop music and lyrics, which weaves Broadway, Nashville, gospel and ballad styles into the mix.

After touring the United States from 2010-11 and Great Britain in 2012-13, the show went through various regional productions, and opened in London’s West End in February.

It’s the first “poppy” musical for Revival Theatre, musical director Cameron Sullenberger said, describing it as a “feel-good country-pop” sound.

“It’s had a resurgence because of the message,” he noted. “I don’t think Dolly Parton has ever been more popular than she is now. I think she’s probably, honestly, at an iconic level.”

Stepping into her shoes is a thrill for Shadrick, a private voice instructor with an appropriately bubbly personality.

“Playing Doralee is interesting, because she is written to be Dolly Parton. And so you don’t play Doralee — you play Dolly Parton playing Doralee,” Shadrick said.

“I love Dolly Parton. I’ve always said there’s two people who taught me to be who I am, and that’s Jesus and Dolly Parton. So playing Dolly Parton is a no-brainer for me,” she said, slipping into a Southern accent.

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“But I’ve also lived in a perspective (that) women today are allowed to speak up,” Shadrick said, “so there’s that moment of ‘I want to say something so bad,’ but she wouldn’t have said something. That thought process in 1979 was never ‘I’m gonna speak up,’ it’s very much, ‘I’m gonna play the good girl, and I’m gonna let him grab me, and I’m gonna let him look at me, because I’m gonna play the game.’ But the thought of ‘I actually could say something,’ (creates) that inner conversation.”

Bringing something new to well-known characters is a challenge for any cast, but especially in a show where three entertainment heavy-hitters have carved out Judy, Violet and Doralee on-screen.

“There’s something interesting about the dynamic of the three women,” said Arnold, 34, of Cedar Rapids. “The story that was on film was partially driven by these three women in this moment of time together, so there’s an element of us and who we are as people and as actors that come together and create a different perspective on what that is. That’s been a really interesting journey for us. None of us were particularly close before we started this process. Nina and I had done a show together, and Cindy and I had never met, so this has been a really fun process for us, I think.”

“It’s been a blast,” said Swanson, 64, of Central City, well-known in local music and theater circles.

“I walked through the door at the first rehearsal and said, ‘OK, we have to be best friends in five minutes,” Shadrick said. “And I’m such an introverted, shy person to begin with, I’m always like, ‘Oh God, everybody’s gonna hate me within five seconds,’ and Nina just hugged me, and I’m like, ‘Oh, thank God. We’re already in love with each other.’”

Adding an interesting twist is the fact that Arnold and Riven are married in real life, and yet his loutish character is the object of all the women’s scorn.

Doralee gets to tie him up, which makes all three women giggle.

“It’s fun to watch him take on a role like this, which is so completely opposite of who he is as a human being,” Arnold said. “It’s really fun to watch him dig into this, and have a great time with it.

“It’s a great show to get out of your funk with the weather, and come have a good time at the theater,” Glick said, with a background chorus chiming in with “Bring your girlfriends.”

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“Yes, bring your girlfriends — bring your husbands,” Glick exclaimed. “And if you don’t have a husband, that’s OK, too,” Arnold added. “That’s so Judy of you,” Glick replied, sparking laughter all around.

GET OUT!

WHAT: Revival Theatre: “Nine to Five”

WHERE: Sinclair Auditorium, Coe College, 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today (3/14) to Saturday (3/16)

TICKETS: $25 to $45; Paramount Ticket Office, 119 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, (319) 366-8203 or Artsiowa.com/tickets/concerts/nine-to-five/

RATED: PG-13

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