Still Workin'

Gay fans flock to the premiere of 9 to 5 at Los Angeles's Ahmanson Theatre to see Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin -- and end up staying for an excellent show.

BY Corey Scholibo

September 21 2008 11:00 PM ET

It’s the
opening night of 9 to 5 at the Ahmanson Theatre
in Los Angeles and all the gays are out. I run into
producer Dan Jinks, whose film Milk will be
released in November; the handsome as always Robert
Gant; producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan
(Hairspray); and even the young actor Mitch
Morris (Another Gay Movie).

Who would have
thought the opening of a show about three working women
dealing with sexism and office politics in the ‘80s,
camp though it may be, would be one of the biggest gay
events of the year? And then in walks Dolly Parton and
I realize instantly why they have all come. Standing
barely five feet tall -- though her stilettos and one
of the most complicated wigs I have ever seen are
helping her height a great deal -- she commands the
room. She takes her seat amid a standing ovation.
Another burst of applause erupts when Lily Tomlin dashes in
at the last minute. Jane Fonda, on the other hand, had
arrived early in her tasteful suit and tinted
eyeglasses, and had been milling around for about 30
minutes by showtime.

The musical is a
success. Allison Janney heads up the cast as Violet
Newstead, the role originated by Lily Tomlin in the 1980
film. While her singing alone would not take her
far in musical theater, her comedic timing more than
makes up for any vocal shortcomings, which are masked
for the most part by letting her sing behind other voices --
you won’t be hearing her belt any ballads. In
the role of the conservative Judy Bernly -- whose
divorce has forced her back into the working world, only to
end up helping her find herself -- is Stephanie J.
Block, fresh from the role of Elphaba in the Broadway
cast of Wicked, and she has the Idina
Menzel–style voice to prove it. But stealing the
show is Megan Hilty as Doralee Rhodes, the role originated
by Parton. Her performance is less an impersonation of
Parton than an homage, but hearing her speak
takes you right back to the film. Parton wrote the
music and lyrics for the show, and every scene with Doralee
is self-referential to Parton, whose presence makes it
all the more inside baseball.

9 to 5 dolly parton and lilly tomlin X390 (�Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging) | ADVOCATE.COMStars of the original film, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin

Tags: Theater

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