WATERLOO, Iowa — Four days before opening night, cast members in the Waterloo Community Playhouse production of “9 to 5: The Musical” sat in front of dressing room mirrors applying stage makeup and adjusting costumes, then hurried upstairs to the Hope Martin Theatre stage at the call for “warm up” vocalizations.
The countdown had begun for final rehearsals before the curtain rises on the musical based on the 1980 movie, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. WCP Artistic Director Charles Stilwill smiled. “The beginning of a show is always exciting, then it gets a little tedious with all the details involved. Now that we’re getting close to opening, everyone is feeling the excitement. It’s a great cast and hilarious show,” he said.
The show opens Friday at the Waterloo Center for the Arts with performances through July 27.
Set in the late 1970s, Violet (Rosemary Gast), Judy (Katie Rathe) and Doralee (Marjorie Gast) work at Consolidated Industries for the lecherous and hellish company president, Franklin Hart Jr. (Jim Weaver). The women become friends, have murderous revenge fantasies about their boss, and pushed to the edge, they kidnap, string him up and keep him captive in his bedroom. In a man’s world, they feel empowered successfully running the business while keeping Hart’s absence a secret, while fearing exposure.
“It’s a fun, lively show with great music, a lot of parts and because it’s such a new musical, it’s something we’ve never done before,” Stilwill noted. There are 22 in the cast.
Patricia Resnick wrote both the screenplay and the script. The musical opened on Broadway in 2009, earning 15 Drama Desk Award nominations, the most of any production in a single year, and four Tony Award nominations.
The show’s theme song, “9 to 5,” was a hit for Parton, and she wrote more than a dozen songs for the musical. Tunes such as “Backwoods Barbie,” “I Just Might,” “Let Love Grow” and “Shine Like the Sun” were recorded by Parton, too. In addition to solos, there is a large chorus “that has a lot to do,” said Stilwill.
Daniel Gast is music director, and Kyle N. Weber is choreographer, both of Cedar Falls.
“You can see the ’70s influence in the choreography. We pull out the Hustle and the Electric Slide, the disco stuff,” said Weber, laughing. “But there’s more variety in the music — the 1940ish ‘Dance of Death,’ a Disneyesque woodland creatures dance. My favorite is ‘Around Here’ because the dancing has elements of puppetry (Hart pulling strings to control the workers). It’s so strong and so fast, this is my baby,” he added.
He’s working with actors who have a range of experience levels from none to years in dance classes. “It’s wonderful to see people who have years of experience helping those who’ve never danced on stage before. I’ve always said ‘you can do it.’ That’s what someone said to me once, and it’s true. I enjoy bringing everyone to the same level of confidence. They’re doing so well, too.”