"9 to 5: The Musical" On Stage at the Reedley Opera House

by Terrance McArthur

If you have never seen the film 9 to 5, you should. You’ve probably heard the title song by Dolly Parton. Well, she and one of the writers turned the movie into a stage musical, with more songs by Dolly. For more information about the history of the play and the plot, check my review of the 2016 GCP production, or this (pardon the expression) Wikipedia article.

OK. Now we can talk about the River City Theatre Company production of 9 to 5: The Musical at the Reedley Opera House through May 19.

Here’s what I like about this show. These people don’t look like movie stars. They don’t look like actors. They look like real people. They sing, dance, and act their hearts out, and they’re having a good time, too…so why shouldn’t you? There are only thirteen people on the teeny-tiny Opera House stage, but it looks like a crowd. I have no idea how they ever managed to perform Les Miz there…but I digress. Back to Reedley’s 9 to 5.

Rene Mendel is Violet (the Lily Tomlin role in the movie), the brains of the employee group: trainer, manager, supporter. Mendel, who played the angel Clarence in RCTC’s It’s a Wonderful Life, has a force in her kindness, an intelligence in her panic. If this was Apollo 13: The Musical, she would figure out how to save the astronauts. She shows an adaptable grace as she brazens her way through embarrassing situations, making up plausible lies on the fly.
Donna Vincent, Tamara Applegate, Rachel Ensley, Rene Mendel

Rachel Ensley plays Judy (the Jane Fonda part), the heart of the outfit: caring, concerned, and possessed of the most hideous hat and first-day-on-the-job outfit that the imagination and wardrobe storage could provide. She makes a wonderful transition from timid newbie to a valued team member that is believable.

The soul of the crew is Shelby Lynn DiQuirico as the striking Doralee (think Dolly Parton stretched up, instead of out), a character filled with hope. She has a lovely, soft voice that wasn’t helped by opening-night sound problems. Nevertheless, she persisted, and was a charming facet of the show.
Shelby Lynn DiQuirico and Chris Giese

Unfortunately, where there is a heart, there might also be a Hart (Franklin Hart, the Dabney Coleman character), and Chris Giese is that heartless Hart, the personification of the Male Chauvinist Pig that would propel us into the #MeToo generation. Giese is always a treat to see on the Opera House stage. He gleefully milks all the venom he can from the role and spews it all over the place…and it’s fun to watch.
Shelby Lynn DiQuirico, Rene Mendel, Rachel Ensley, and Chris Giese

Eric Bailey directed and plays Joe, the younger man who cares about Violet. He gets to sing the plaintive “Let Love Grow,” and he keeps things moving, choreographing the scene changes as tightly as Sarah Bailey choreographs the dance movements, allowing for the skills of non-professional performers.

Dorie Hibanada portrays the company snitch, Roz, with a snippy intensity, while Tamara Applegate sparkles as a not-so-closet drunk who cleans up nicely at the end. Joseph Hill and Steve Jones collaborated on a set design that works like a Transformers creature, turning tables into wrapped desks and elevator doors into bathroom stalls; it’s maximized minimalism.

The Opera House is easy to find at 1720 10th Street, and you can find ticket information at the RCTC website or by calling 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500. For fans of the movie, it’s a fun reminder. For those who never saw the film, it’s a cautionary tale. Either way, it’s worth a look.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 19 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean. A new episode just went up last week!

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian in Fresno County, California. He is also a storyteller, puppeteer, magician, and maker of pine needle baskets. On top of that he writes stories that range from rhymed children's tales to splatterpunk horror. He's an odd bird, but he's nice to have around.