9to5By Manning Harris

Is there anyone who doesn’t like Dolly Parton?  Even if you’re not a fan of her music, she’s an irrepressible life force, and her presence dominates the musical “9 to 5,” currently on view through October 3 at the Fox in Theater of the Stars’ snappy touring production starring Atlanta’s own Diana DeGarmo.

But back to Dolly.  True, she’s not onstage “live and in person,” but she’s there all right:  She wrote the music and the lyrics (based on the 1980 film starring Dolly, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda); in addition, she appears on a screen center stage to open and close the show with her own homespun, witty commentary.

The show is set in pre-Internet 1979, and the glass ceiling is firmly in place.  Violet (Broadway  veteran Dee Hoty, in a fine performance) is a super-efficient office manager; but in this male-dominated arena, she can only be called a “lead secretary.”  She must give the appearance  of being subservient to her boss, Franklin Hart (Joseph Mahowald), a handsomer version of the film’s Dabney Coleman, but every bit as chauvinist.

Then there’s Doralee (Diana DeGarmo), the buxom country girl who just can’t fathom why the other woman aren’t very nice to her (Hart is spreading lies that he is sleeping with her.)  Need I tell you who played the role in the movie?  Ms. DeGarmo does a very believable job of capturing the heart of the character, without trying to imitate Dolly Parton—a smart choice.

Completing our lead trio is Judy (Mamie Parris), a rather classy lady whose husband left her lonely (and without any discernible office skills).  And let’s not forget Roz, the frumpy office busybody, who has a hopeless crush on Mr. Hart; this role is played to perfection by Kristine Zbornik, and she very nearly steals the show, especially in her numbers “Heart to Hart” and “5 to 9.”

When Violet is passed over for a promotion (for a man whom she trained) and Doralee learns what the boss has been saying about their “affair,” the hijinks begin in earnest, as the women now put their revenge into operation.  I won’t reveal the details, but they involve kidnapping, ropes, harnesses, and mild s and m action (or “m and m’s,” as innocent Judy chirps).  It’s all light-hearted good fun, as is the show.

“9 to 5” is directed by Jeff Calhoun, with a book by Patricia Resnick.  The songs are not really Dolly’s all-time best, except for the famous title number, which opens the show and recurs here and there.  The cast is large and excellent; they’ll show you a good time.  Broadway economics being what they are, the show didn’t have a long run there; but the road version is bracing and fun.  And if you go and don’t like it, then “Just keep your big mouth shut,” as Dolly (on screen) exhorts in the closing moments.

For more information and tickets, visit www.foxtheatre.org or www. encoreatlanta.com. Contact Manning Harris at fmanningh@gmail.com

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.