'9 to 5' finds new life on stage

One of the lead actresses draws inspiration from Jane Fonda, who originally starred as Judy Bernly in the original feature film.

May 05, 2011|By Candice Baker
(Courtesy Joan Marcus )

Ever have the feeling that if you just got your boss out of the picture, you could run the company the way it ought to be run?

These ladies did, with a ball-gag and a lot of forged signatures.

The Broadway musical version of "9 to 5" will land at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Tuesday. With songs written by Dolly Parton, the show — based on the hit 1980 movie that launched her into superstardom — received four Tony Award nominations and a record 15 Drama Desk nominations when it debuted in 2009.

In the show, three polyester-clad women in a stifling circa-1980 workplace fantasize about how they would kill Franklin Hart Jr., their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" of a boss. A mad-cap adventure ensues when they discover they may have accidentally poisoned his coffee, replete with a kidnapping, a joint and lots of show-stopping musical numbers.


Mamie Parris plays Judy Bernly, a freshly divorced woman who embarks on a new career as a secretary in a massive corporation. The role was played by Jane Fonda in the film.

"Jane, I believe, had the original idea for the movie and went to a screenwriter with it," Parris said. "She said, 'This is something that is happening in the workplace and we need to talk about it.' This is really art imitating life."

Parton, who played Hart's secretary, Doralee, in the original film, has become very involved with the touring production — partially, Parris speculated, because Parton wasn't "100% pleased" with the Broadway version, and wanted the opportunity to impact the touring version.

"She comes out whenever she can, which has been great," Parris said, describing Parton as a kind of "fairy godmother." "She makes fudge for us, and she's really been there for us. She's been a huge supporter."

For her part, stepping into Fonda's pointy pumps and bringing new life to the character took a bit of forethought, Parris said.

"I've seen the movie, of course; it's a classic, and I'm a big fan," she said. "When I got called back [to audition], I did watch the movie again for inspiration. They always say to 'feel from the best' in this biz, and I really did feel from the best, Jane Fonda. I feel my Judy has a lot of her in her, out of respect to her and because she did such a good job, but I can't help but have my personality come through, too."

Parris said theater was a natural choice for her.

"I've always been a singer," Parris said. "Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved to sing."

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