Saturday, September 6, 2008

Reverend’s Interview: 9 to 5: The Musical's Patricia Resnick

The 1980 comedy film 9 to 5 was a substantial success upon its initial release. It has also stood the test of time as a still-witty satire about sexual politics in the workplace. Since the movie’s popularity was aided by co-star Dolly Parton’s hit theme song, it seems natural for the movie to now become a Broadway-bound stage musical with a score written by Parton.

True to its Hollywood roots, though, 9 to 5: The Musical is making its world premiere on the West Coast. Despite the first preview performance having been delayed twice now, I’ve been assured that all is well with the show. It is now scheduled to play at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles September 9 to October 19, prior to its New York opening in April 2009.

Of significance, the musical’s development is being guided by a talented trio of openly gay or lesbian artists: director Joe Mantello (Wicked, Take Me Out); book writer Patricia Resnick, who also wrote the screenplay for the original film with its director, the late Colin Higgins; and producer Robert Greenblatt, whose “day job” is President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks, Inc. Greenblatt has helped bring such GLBT favorites as The L Word and Six Feet Under to television.

Resnick and Greenblatt took time out from their busy 9 to 5 rehearsal schedule to speak with me (my interview with Greenblatt will be posted here next week). When I asked Resnick how the show was coming along approximately one month before its first LA performance, she was legitimately enthusiastic. “It’s great!,” Resnick exclaimed. “Everything’s going very well. There’s much re-writing currently going on, but I just saw Act I this morning and it’s great.”

For those unfamiliar with 9 to 5, it follows the exploits of three female office employees (played in the film by Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda) 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. The stage musical is set in 1979, the year Resnick wrote the film’s screenplay (which was nominated for a Writers Guild award).

“Over the years since the movie came out, I was contacted by various New York theatre people about adapting it for the stage,” Resnick told me. She and Greenblatt devoted themselves in 2004 to developing the project together and approached Parton about writing the musical’s score. Despite the fact that Parton had never written a musical before, Resnick reports that the singer-songwriter replied in her trademark, cheerful way, “Sure, I’ll give it a shot!”

“She’s the greatest person to work with in the world, in any capacity,” according to Resnick, who worked with Parton not only on the 9 to 5 film but also her underrated 1992 movie, Straight Talk. “When Joe came in as the director, we started looking at things through his eyes and some songs didn’t work or had to move around. Dolly has been completely flexible and dedicated; it’s been a great collaboration.”

Resnick believes their show has “a lot of appeal” for GLBT theatergoers. “For whatever reason, 9 to 5 (the movie) seems to have become iconic in the gay community. There are a number of visual touches in the musical, including a same-sex couple waking up together during one number, and many members of the creative team, including myself, are lesbian or gay.”

Amusingly, right after Resnick said this, she told me, “As I’m talking, I’m backstage and my eyes just happened to fall on a box of nails labeled ‘Dykes.’ What does that say about the LGBT content of this show?”

9 to 5: The Musical boasts crowd-pleasing actresses Allison Janney (TV’s The West Wing, Juno) and Wicked alumna Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty in the lead roles. I inquired as to what Resnick’s favorite thing is about the musical versus the original movie. “There are two different sides to it,” she answered. “One is as a writer, which has been fantastic. As a work of theatre I can keep writing and re-working it, whereas on film it is set and can’t be changed once it’s out there.”

Resnick continued, “The other side is the amazing production numbers in the musical. Now when I watch the movie, I keep expecting the characters to burst into song!”

Before ending the interview, I asked Resnick, who lives in Los Angeles with her two children and several pets, if there was anything else she felt it important to share with Movie Dearest readers. She replied simply but eagerly, “I’m single!”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the official website for 9 to 5: The Musical.

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

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