'9 to 5'

Cameron Dunbar (Franklin) dances with Caroline Menefee (Judy) in College of the Mainland Community Theatre´s production of “9 to 5: The Musical.”

Courtesy Photo

 Dolly Parton herself sprinkles fairy dust on College of the Mainland’s production of “9 to 5: The Musical.” Sure she’s a projection on a big screen, but her introduction is so sweet and funny only the hardest-hearted Grinch could resist falling for her show.

Parton wrote all the music and lyrics for the musical, which is based on the movie with a book by Patricia Resnick. Just like its creator, “9 to 5: The Musical” is sassy, flashy, a little bit cheesy but ultimate irresistible for its great tunes, silly fun and big heart. Often seeing a musical for the first time is somewhat unsatisfying as you’re unfamiliar with the songs, but Parton’s storytelling songs are instantly enjoyable and affecting. 

College of the Mainland consistently create shows of a high standard, and this is one of their best. Rob de los Reyes has drawn good performances from his cast and crew to create a cohesive, fun and highly professional show.

In the Lily Tomlin role of Violet Newstead, Amber Bennett is excellent. Many of her songs were highlights, including “One of the Boys” and “Potion Notion” that takes Snow White’s sweet trills and turns them into a battle cry. 

Also excellent was Caroline Menefee in the mousy role of Judy Bernly, played by Jane Fonda in the movie. She makes the role her own and her belt-out empowerment song “Get Out and Stay Out” is a real highlight. 

In the Dolly Parton role of Doralee, Katherine Cunningham seemed a little tentative at first but once warmed up, she gave a sassy performance.

Cameron Dunbar takes on the thankless task of playing the sexiest boss Franklin Hart Jr. with great aplomb, mining all the comedy he can from the slapstick scenes. 

As does Melanie Bernsen Clinkscales, who plays the show’s other baddie, the sycophantic secretary Roz Keith.

There were also good performances from the supporting cast of Kyle Crawford, Bobby Britton, Max Estudillo, Marion McDaniel, Darin Montemayor, Curtis Barber, Eboni Williams, Donna Bane, Matt Graves and Tom Carrington.

Courtney Chilton’s choreography makes excellent use of the space and adds humor and razzle dazzle when necessary. 

Instead of canned music, this production has a live band on stage, and they perform well, adding excitement, energy and pace to the show. 

Congratulations to musical director Eduardo Guzman and his band — Roland Medina (guitar), Jeff Perez (percussion) and Hugo Ramirez (bass).

Jodi Bobrovsky’s set design is one of the best seen at COM with stylized filing cabinets and a city skyline, creating a Broadway pizazz without losing any of the intimacy of the venue. 

Amanda Bezemek’s costumes are so 1979 perfect it’s like you’ve traveled back to the time taste forgot. 

Normally, the slightly nylon look of wigs bugs me but in this show it reminded me of how much everyone loved hair spray back then. Doralee could have done with a little more sparkle but that’s a minor quibble.

Curt Meyer’s lighting design works well as does Craig Seanor’s sound design adding the final polish to a very professional production.

College of the Mainland’s “9 to 5: The Musical” is a fun night out. Make sure you don’t miss it. You wouldn’t want to disappoint Dolly, now would you?

Shannon Caldwell lives on Galveston Island and has been a journalist and theater reviewer for 20 years.

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