Review: Women empowerment is on display in “9 to 5: The Musical”

The Fullerton College Theatre Department presents “9 to 5: The Musical,” where women join forces to tackle workplace challenges, embracing laughter and love along the way.
Paige Zell (left) and Magaly Becerra (right) perform during the final act of 9 to 5: The Musical on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.
Paige Zell (left) and Magaly Becerra (right) perform during the final act of “9 to 5: The Musical” on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.
Ciara Gonzalez

The clock was ticking and lights were shining with the sound of each heel step-by-step raising to the upbeat tone of the opening act of Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5.” With just 6 weeks to prepare, the FC Theater Department hit the ground running, pulling together a production full of lights, live instruments, props and fast pace dancing.

Derived from the popular film “9 to 5,” “9 to 5: The Musical” is a comedic story of three female officer workers in the 70s who overthrow their sexist boss, leading to a workplace of women’s empowerment.

In the story, we meet main characters Violet Newstead, Doralee Rhodes, and Judy Bernly, who work under their misogynistic CEO Franklin Hart Jr. Violet, a single mother and widow, assists Judy, a newcomer to the office after divorcing her cheating husband. Doralee, who is married, faces rumors of an affair with Hart. Despite their differences, the three eventually bond as friends.

However, as Violet accidentally harms Hart in an unforeseen way, all three scramble to conceal her mistake. While doing so, they transform the workplace into a supportive environment where women thrive, all while evading Hart’s attempts to seek revenge.

It features music and lyrics crafted by Dolly Parton, who plays Doralee in the film.

“It’s a lot, it’s a huge show. There’s a lot of moving parts. It’s all shared between the crew members that are students, the designers that are students, the cast members that are students, we even have three students in the orchestra,” said production director Candice Martinez-Clasby.

The musical was full of humorous moments such as the song “Heart to Hart” performed by Xitlali Sanchez who plays Roz Keith. The performance also touches on more sensitive subjects of abuse and objectification of women which was depicted in vulnerable moments of the characters such as the number “Backwards Barbie” performed by Fionna Tucker, who plays Doralee.

Tucker hadn’t done theater in years, making “9 to 5” her comeback production all while transitioning from her rockstar role in her band Ti85. She expressed pride in her performance as well as connection to her character in the process.

“Other than Dolly, I found myself relating to Doralee a lot. She wants to be a singer. I’m a singer and I have a band. I play instruments. She likes to get all dolled up everywhere she goes. I tend to do that a lot,” said Tucker. “How I have my makeup here is like how I have it a lot of the time. Doralee has a nine-to-five office job while I work for an accountant from quite literally nine-to-five.”

Another actress who found a connection to her character was sophomore musical theater major Paige Zell, who plays Violet.

“My performance is inspired by several of the very impactful women in my life. Both of my grandmothers have recently passed away. I’ve taken a lot of the way I remember them with both of them being very funny, being very still, being very stern. I put a lot of that into Violet,” said Zell.

In the musical, the main leads are in their 40s. Martinez-Clasby expressed how it was a learning curve for the performers to learn how to portray these older characters through makeup and acting.

“But I’m really really proud of the three leads, specifically taking on roles that are much older than themselves and actually making it believable,” said Martinez-Clasby.

Professionals like choreographer Arthur Ross, music director Gabriella Maldonado, and vocal director John Massey, brought their industry expertise to Fullerton College for this production. Their involvement provided students with unique, professional experience over the eight-week duration of the program, enriching their education beyond the classroom.

“In the early production period of the show, there wasn’t going to be tap dancing in it. But my favorite style of dance aside from ballet is tap, oddly enough. When I just casually brought it up to Candice, she was like, ‘I’ll think about it,’ and then turned around the next day and put tap into it. I was just so excited,” said Zell.

The tap dancing truly infused vitality into this production, showcasing the attention to detail from the collaboration of faculty and students. Overall, the musical was brimming with drama and humor, yet skillfully delivering just the right dose of inspiration. It offers a riotous celebration of female camaraderie in the corporate world and the pursuit of workplace justice.

The curtain rises on Thursday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. for opening night, featuring a total of seven performances in the upcoming week. Presale tickets are available for $16, with tickets priced at $19 at the door of the Campus Theater.

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