Office Drama

8.26.2008

By Eddie Shaprio

At the 2006 DVD release party for 9 to 5, Dolly Parton performed the film's Oscar-nominated theme song. She started by clicking her nails against each other in an approximation of the movie's opening typewriter sound. 'You have to have falsies to do this. The nails too,' she quipped. And then, noting her audience, Parton encouraged a full-scale sing-along. 'All you girls, all you guys -- all you guys who want to be girls -- let me hear you!' And an entire room erupted in song.

You can hear it now, can't you? The song has an almost Pavlovian quality, producing instant giddiness with the clattering of its opening chords. Parton knew it that night and is counting on a similar response to 9 to 5: The Musical. With a score by Parton and a book by the film's screenwriter, Patricia Resnick, the show -- about three oppressed secretaries who seize control from their vile, misogynist boss -- is poised to delight a whole new generation.

'It is a great story that's still very resonant today,' says producer Robert Greenblatt. 'Even though we're [almost] 30 years away from the movie, there's a sense that things haven't changed that much in corporate America. The glass ceiling is still there.'

Allison Janney, who plays Violet Newstead, a role created by her West Wing costar and friend Lily Tomlin, agrees. 'The battle's still on. We're still fightin', girls,' she says playfully. Janney may not be known for her musical prowess (yet), but she insists that she can 'hit it to the back rows' and is particularly excited by the show's female-centric plot. 'That's what I loved about Wicked. It was like a love story between these two women. I don't think there are enough stories about women's relationships that are so complicated and so rich.'

Lucky that Janney's a Wicked fan: Not only will that show's director, Joe Mantello, be at the helm of 9 to 5, but her costars Megan Hilty and Stephanie Block (left, and right, surrounding Janney) also are both Wicked alumnae. Janney is in awe of all three, but she's most impressed with Parton: 'I was terrified to meet her, but I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised about how embracing she was of me. And she wears really cool clothes! I think I am going take a tip from Dolly and maybe wear a few sparkles every day.'

9 to 5: The Musical premieres September 3 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. See more picks for queer fall theater here.

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