Stage & Dance

Review: '9 to 5' is great start to Woodford Theatre's second 25 years

Melissa Rae Wilkeson as Violet in The Woodford Theatre's production of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." Photo by Ellie Clark.
Melissa Rae Wilkeson as Violet in The Woodford Theatre's production of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." Photo by Ellie Clark.

VERSAILLES — With glossy, thick new programs, a full house, and over halfway to their annual fundraising goal, The Woodford Theatre appears to be charging confidently toward its next era in its 25th anniversary season opener, 9 to 5: The Musical.

Based on the 1980 film with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, 9 to 5 has been revamped for the stage, with Parton herself writing new songs and one of the film's co-writers, Patricia Resnick, writing the book.

Friday's opening-night performance was a high-octane comedic romp that reflected Parton's hallmark qualities: big-haired, over-the-top presentation with a refreshingly sincere message and a dash of irreverent mischief thrown in for fun.

A sign posted outside the theater declared the show "PG-13," mostly for some mild profanity and sexual innuendo in the wildly inappropriate leering advances of the villainous boss, Mr. Hart, toward his female employees.

Set before phrases like "political correctness" were mainstream and sexual harassment was just a normal part of life, 9 to 5: The Musical revolves around the oppression, bonding, revenge fantasies and hilarious hijinks of a trio of women who revolt against "the man."

Lindsey Austin, Ashleigh Chrisena Ricci and Melissa Rae Wilkeson are perfectly cast in the iconic roles made famous by Parton, Fonda and Tomlin.

As Doralee, Austin is all "dolled up" a la Parton, and has the pipes and pluck to make the role her own. She particularly shines when she gets the stage to herself in numbers like Backwoods Barbie.

Ricci's character, Judy, undergoes perhaps the most satisfying transformation, which the actress conveys with nuance and humor, occasionally scratching beneath the surface of an emotional truth that gives the show a sudden burst of jarring authenticity that is a hallmark of Parton's best songwriting. Judy's transformation from an unskilled, man-dependent wallflower to a confident survivor is powerfully punctuated in Ricci's emotional rendition of Get Out and Stay Out.

Wilkeson brings her usual talent for comedic timing to the role of Violet, and her alto voice richly complements Ricci and Austin, particularly in moving numbers like I Just Might, where the women realize that have a chance at surviving the corporate jungle.

A host of supporting characters form a tight-knit ensemble, though occasionally their choreography could be tighter. Meaghan Sharrard's Minnesota-twinged performance as Roz, the only woman in the office who actually would welcome the boss' affection, was an audience favorite, particularly in her solo number Heart to Hart.

Speaking of Mr. Hart, Jason Meenach is fun to hate as the offensive slime-ball boss, relishing in his character's wildly inappropriate overtures of affection and petty power-mongering

Former Lexington Children's Theatre technical director Jerome Wills' expansive scenic design is exquisitely wrought. When combined with Clifton Grimm's lighting design, it brings a professional polish to the '80s corporate office.

Wesley Nelson's direction alternates between embracing spectacle and stripping it away to reveal the characters' authentic developments. Yes, 9 to 5 is packed full of fun from beginning to end, but there's an important message about equality at its heart, and that is what satisfies the most.

'9 to 5'

What: The Woodford Theatre's production of the musical with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick.

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 11, 12, 18, 19; and 2 p.m. Oct. 13, 20.

Where: Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles.

Tickets: $19 adults, $12 students. Available at (859) 873-0648 or