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9 to 5: the Musical and Sexual Harassment

Kara Van Veghel played Violet Newstead in “9 to 5: The Musical”. – Photo courtesy of The Daily Times

Correction: In a previously published version of this article, the portrait painting of  actor Professor Doug James as character Frank Hart was attributed to Dr. Carl Gombert. The painting (which was a digitally designed piece)  was actually created by designer and faculty member, Morgan Manning, who is a professor within the design major.

Starting Friday Feb. 23 and ending Feb. 25, the Maryville College theater program put on a production of “9 to 5: The Musical. Around campus about a week before the musical premiered, rumors began circulating about the controversy surrounding the musical. Information went around that the cast was ill prepared and that the musical itself was going to be rude, but “9 to 5: The Musical was much more than that; the production was the beginning of a discussion that needs to happen.

The story of “9 to 5: The Musical was adapted from the ‘80s film version featuring music and lyrics from Dolly Parton and even features a display of Dolly speaking at the beginning and the end. The musical follows a large company, a powerful male CEO, and three inferior secretaries. The company’s CEO, Frank Hart, was played by Professor Doug James, Adjunct Instructor of  Theatre. His female cohorts Violet, Judy and Doralee are played by Kara Van Veghel, senior Hannah White, and Sara Deatherage ‘17 respectively. The play features the musical talents of many Maryville students including senior Lenny Lively as Joe in “Let Love Grow,” junior Lindsey Lively as Roz in “Heart to Hart,” as well as James in “Here for You,” Van Veghel in “Around Here,” White in “Get Out and Stay Out,” and Deatherage in “Backwoods Barbie.”

Senior Hannah White played Judy Bernly in“9 to 5: The Musical”. – Photo courtesy of The Daily Times

Franklin Hart is a disgraceful boss who frequently sexualizes and harasses his female inferiors. In his feature “Here for You,” he instructs Dolly-Parton lookalike Doralee to climb on the top shelf as he slips into a chair only to gaze up her skirt without her permission or knowledge. He repeatedly refers to the women as “his girls,” and every one of the secretaries make it known that they know he’s a “scumbag,” but they still can’t afford to lose their jobs.

Hart made some comments throughout the play that received laughs where they shouldn’t have. At one point he asked, “What do you call a woman who lost 80% of her intelligence?” He answered with, “Divorced!” This was greeted with chuckles that only became uncomfortable after the joke had settled. The play is meant to introduce the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace in a way that provides comedy and thought-provoking actions.

The production quality of “9 to 5: The Musical was nothing less than impressive. Attention to detail was apparent throughout the play, from the introduction with a beautiful display of Dolly Parton herself, to a massive painting of James as Frank Hart hanging in his fictional office. Morgan Manning, a design professor at MC, digitally created this painting. Set changes were quick and seamless, besides one or two slight delays here and there. The sound and lighting, however, was flawless. Lighting was well controlled and timed, and the performers were able to sing both high and loud without any major microphone feedback.

The ensemble group came out to perform a number from “9 to 5: The Musical”. – Photo courtesy of The Daily Times

The production of “9 to 5: The Musical was only able to come together by the hands acting behind the scenes as well as actors and actresses; credits include sophomore Bailey Holt as the Stage Manager, senior Lenny Lively as Dance Captain and Carpentry Crew Head, senior Jennings Kelly as Scenic Art Crew Head, senior Chandler Chastain as Audio Crew Head, junior Anna Dieter as Lighting Crew Head and Board Operator, senior Molly Hamant as Costume Crew Head, freshman Cameron Freshour as Props Crew Head, and freshman Diamond Cronan as Publicity and Front of House Crew Head.

“9 to 5: The Musical” was a comedic, yet controversial treat that was worth the experience, but the content is not suitable for children. It contains some crude language and remarks, as well as serious accounts of sexual harassment. However, the play holds an important message that should be acknowledged by those who are suited for a PG-13 rating. The production quality and content exceeded expectations. The premier dates of “9 to 5” have passed, but I recommend giving the original movie and book time. The story of feminism in the 1980’s is worth talking about.

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