Arts & Culture

REVIEW: Working '9 to 5'

Revival Theatre kicking through glass ceiling with musical

Greg Billman photo

Doralee (Cindy Shadrick) rouses up her office co-workers in Revival Theatre Company’s production of “9 to 5: The Musical,” onstage through Saturday (3/16) in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.
Greg Billman photo Doralee (Cindy Shadrick) rouses up her office co-workers in Revival Theatre Company’s production of “9 to 5: The Musical,” onstage through Saturday (3/16) in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Punching the retro time clock will punch a few buttons for those of us who recognize the office inequities running amok in “9 to 5: The Musical.”

Revival Theatre Company is staging Dolly Parton’s rollicking show through Saturday in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College. And it will make you squirm.

Just like Parton’s image, the show is a fine bit of fluff wrapped around a heart pounding home the need for the #MeToo movement.

Tim Arnold, performing under his stage name of Tim Riven, captures perfectly the chauvinistic tyrant that is Franklin Hart Jr., a man-child who looks down the blouses and up the skirts of the secretaries toiling under his office dictatorship. Riven plays the role with gleeful smarm, drawing an equal number of boos and laughs from Thursday’s opening night audience.

I laughed out loud a couple of times at his antics, then immediately felt guilty. What the character does is no laughing matter, but Riven is riveting, and the way his employees exact their revenge is delightful, if not a tiny bit illegal, as they kidnap and truss up their boss like the pig he is.

The 2009 musical based on the 1980 hit musical that made Parton a screen star features a powerhouse trio of women who find their voices after being silenced too long. Nina Swanson and Jordan Arnold are familiar faces on the Corridor acting scene, and bring their well-honed chops to the show, along with Cindy Shadrick, who is making an impressive Revival Theatre debut in the Parton role.

It’s no secret that Doralee Rhodes is Parton, and Shadrick embodies one of her personal heroes with all the sass and brass needed to pull it off.

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Swanson brings a seething undercurrent of controlled rage to Violet Newstead, next in line for a big promotion up the corporate ladder she’s been climbing for years — while still having to fetch coffee for her loathsome boss. She’s the widowed mother of a teenage son (Adam Jedlicka), so she’s afraid to rock the boat too hard, lest she get dumped overboard. But when pushed too hard, she leads the charge that brings the biggest audience cheers.

Jordan Arnold, who just happens to be married in real-life to Tim Riven, gives meek and mousy Judy Bernly plenty of pluck as the new hire who has no skills — just an oily ex-husband, Dick (Bryant Duffy), from whom she’s trying to slide away.

Each of these actresses is dynamic alone, and when their voices and talents combine, they shatter every ceiling in sight, whether belting a soulful ballad or razzle-dazzling through their revenge reveries.

Add in Anne Ohrt as office busybody Roz, and the vocal fireworks shoot even higher. Jan McCool is a hoot, as always, as the office lush Margaret, and Steve Rezabek gets to muster some bluster as chairman of the board Tinsworthy, looking rather like Colonel Sanders’ brother from another mother.

Costume designer Kathryn Huang provides plenty of pop with colorful ’70s wear, especially in the dream scenes. In a rather unusual choice, nearly everyone onstage is wearing a wig to affect a ’70s do, rendering even the most familiar faces unrecognizable. That’s a huge task falling to makeup and hair designer Sarah Fried.

Artistic director Brian Glick and musical director Cameron Sullenberger have a knack for wonderful elite talent for their productions, from the elite groups of area actors onstage and in the perfectly tuned orchestra, to those working behind the scenes.

Alvon Reed’s choreography is nothing short of inspired, capturing a very aerobic edge, with sharp lines and power lunges from the opening crawl-out-of-bed scene to the huge office production numbers and the Vegas-style dream sequences.

Scott Olinger’s lighting and projection designs move the action through various locations with bright flashes of light against Matthew Allar’s ever-rolling scenic design.

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And it was especially nice to see so many people from area theaters in the audience, too, from the Old Creamery Theatre management team to the “Shakespeare in Love” cast and crew from Theatre Cedar Rapids.

Lucky for us, we have plenty of talent to go around.

• Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

If You Go

• What: Revival Theatre: “9 to 5”

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

• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (3/15) and 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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