(*homocinematically inclined)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reverend’s Interview: 9 to 5: The Musical's Robert Greenblatt

Producer Robert Greenblatt's “day job” as President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks, Inc. has helped bring such GLBT favorites as The L Word and Six Feet Under to television. 9 to 5: the Musical, which is now in previews in Los Angeles and will have its official opening there on September 20, represents the first time Greenblatt has been “front and center” producing anything for the stage. While he has an undergraduate degree in theatre and took an initial step toward becoming a Broadway producer a few years ago as an investor in The Drowsy Chaperone, Greenblatt stated he got “side-tracked” into television.

Greenblatt took time out from his busy 9 to 5 rehearsal schedule to speak with me (my interview with book writer Patricia Resnick was posted here last week) about the musical and his work at Showtime. When I asked him how the show was coming along, Greenblatt gushed excitedly: “It’s looking great! I was involved very much in the background of The Drowsy Chaperone, but this is a different animal.”

9 to 5 follows the exploits of three female office employees (played by Allison Janney, Megan Hilty and Stephanie J. Block) who turn the tables on their sexist, egotistical, bigoted boss. They hatch a plan to get even, but their plan quickly spins out of control. Dolly Parton has written the songs for the stage adaptation of the 1980 film in which she made her acting debut.

Greenblatt and Resnick devoted themselves in 2004 to developing the project together and approached Parton about writing the musical’s score, since Parton had written the Oscar-nominated title song for the movie. According to Greenblatt, working with Parton “has been a dream come true. She is well known for her strong work ethic and how honorable and lovable she is. There is no dark side to Dolly, no attitude or diva sensibility. She’s a team player as well as a truly gifted songwriter.”

Since the openly gay Greenblatt has worked hard to ensure that the GLBT community is represented in his television programming and has won three GLAAD Media Awards as a result, I asked him whether 9 to 5 has any specifically-GLBT content.

“I don’t know that it’s a show that has a unique or special message for the community,” he replied, “but I think it speaks to those who don’t feel empowered, which includes many GLBT people. It’s a great story with a universal, all-encompassing theme. It’s fun and funny, but important.”

I asked Greenblatt if he envisioned his stage version being filmed in the future, à la such stage-to-screen blockbusters as Hairspray and Mamma Mia! “I would hope so,” he replied. “It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen, but there have been some successful movie musicals in recent years and I would love for 9 to 5 to join them someday.”

Regarding Showtime’s GLBT-friendly programming, Greenblatt told me: “We do intentionally ensure that the GLBT community is represented as part of a larger mandate to be inclusive of everyone. We’ve had a great track record not only in terms of gay and lesbian but ethnic minorities. They aren’t necessarily the most prominent characters, but they are part of the world.”

Greenblatt shared with me that two of Showtime’s upcoming series, United States of Tara (created by Steven Spielberg and Juno’s Diablo Cody) and a new show starring Edie Falco tentatively titled Nurse Jackie will have significant gay characters.

Finally, I asked Greenblatt if he had anything additional to share with Movie Dearest readers regarding 9 to 5. He mentioned, interestingly, that he and the musical’s director, Tony Award-winning Joe Mantello (Wicked, Take Me Out), went to high school together in Rockford, Illinois and have remained friends ever since. However, 9 to 5 marks the first time they’ve worked together, so “it is special to me on that front too.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the official website of 9 to 5: The Musical, which continues in Los Angeles through October 19. Broadway performances begin March 24 at the Marriott Marquis Theatre.

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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