The beginning of the 1980’s did not exactly kick off a decade in film where story lines showcased respecting and honoring females for their minds. A decade that gave us multiple “Porky’s” movies and plenty of sex-starved teen hijinks makes for some strange viewing in today’s modern world. And while there is plenty wrong with films we might have thought of as classics, some of these inane films with absurd plots have also become downright visionary, anthems for women to take back their world and demand agency.
The classic film “9 to 5” with its whimsical title tune, is such a movie. While in 1980, this film might have been fantasy, where women smoke weed, eat ribs and olives and fantasize about putting their boss on a spit drugged with rat poison, this film can also be considered ahead of its time.
Foothill Music Theatre is bringing “9 to 5, the Musical” to its stage, which earned four Tony nominations back in 2009. And while the play and even the film are as timely as ever, coinciding with trending hashtags such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, there is plenty of fun in the middle of a message that is deadly serious.
“In the film, it took a lot for those women to stand up to the power, but it’s done in such a comic way,” said director Milissa Carey.
The story follows the plights of three very different women who work for uber-chauvinist Franklin Hart, Jr., the epitome of a corporate cartoon villain. He revels in the rumor that he is having an affair with the lovely Doralee Rhodes and does nothing to quelch it, which causes her ostracization from the other ladies in the office.
There is also Violet Newstead, a woman who can run the office forwards, backwards and blindfolded, but seems to be of the most use when she’s getting Hart Jr. his coffee. Finally, you have Judy Bernley, a woman so new to having a job that working a copy machine is her own personal Hell.
While it may be easy to look at the past and say that women have made great strides in the workplace, is that really true? There are many quantifiable statistics that don’t necessarily support this claim, and according to an article in the Wall Street Journal back in October of last year, one of the biggest problems is that “Men and women are at odds over whether there even is a problem to begin with.”
It’s something that Rachelle Abbey has seen firsthand. As a research associate in a biotech company and one who loves her job, she still recognizes the disparity that exists, and is thrilled to be playing a character that helps exemplify that point. Abbey, who plays Judy in Foothill’s production, is more than ready to participate in a play that both enlightens and entertains.
“The movie was so many years ago, but there are so many fights we are still fighting,” said Abbey. “We’ve come a long way in a lot of ways, but it also seems like nothing has changed. It’s great though that there are so many strong women trying to change things and make thing happen, make things better and make a difference.”
While the show brings forward some serious themes, it is still, after all, a broad comedy based on a deliciously campy film. And Carey understands the most important thing when choosing a script comes down to one factor.
“We wanted to choose a show with a good script, good writing, and then do it really well,” said Carey. “They are loveable characters, and what we wanted to do is start with a product we believe is going to work. The script is a lighthearted romp and it’s not played with a heavy hand.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Foothill Music Theatre presents “9 to 5, the Musical”
Book by Patricia Resnick
Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Directed by Milissa Carey
The Lohman Theatre
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA
March 1st – 18th
Tickets range from $12 – $32
For tickets, call (650) 949-7360 or visit https://foothill.edu/theatre/