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Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s ‘9 to 5’ is a great group effort

The Broadway Musical “9 to 5” is based on the 1980 same named film. It featured music and lyrics by Dolly Parton with book by Patricia Resnick and was based on the movie screenplay by Resnick and Colin Higgins. After a premiere opening in Los Angeles in September of 2008 it opened on Broadway in April of 2009 where it received 15 Drama Desk Award nominations (the most received by a production in a single year) as well as four Tony Awards nominations.

It ended up winning one Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for Allison Janney. In spite of all of the nominations it was a short lived production lasting only six months, closing in September of that same year. A national tour was launched in 2019 followed by a UK premiere in 2012 and a West End opening in February of 2019 followed by a UK Tour in 2021. It has since become a favorite of community and college theater programs around the world.

The show has your typical array of 18 songs that no one seems to remember past the exit of the theater as well as one “ear worm” number (“9 to 5”) that has a life of its own. For those not familiar with the phrase, an ear worm is a song that when you hear it you cannot get it out of your head for days at a time. The solution that I find to rid myself of this inner song loop is to look up the lyrics on line, then sing them loudly (in the privacy of my own home of course) thus peace reigns once again in my life.

Judy (Stephanie Malfara) is the “new girl” at Consolidated Industries, a corporate conglomeration where individual freedom is nearly non-existent. Her caring boss is Violet (Tara Corkery) who takes on the recently divorced woman in spite of Judy having little or no job skills or experience. They are joined by the vivacious Doralee (Marybeth Knode) who suffers as the secretary for Mr. Hart (Mason Stewart) who is the company poster boy for sexist, over bearing, crude and lascivious men. His one company “fan” is his female assistant, Roz (Mary Fowler) who listens in around the other women and reports back to her boss any negative proclamations.

As a new corporate day dawns, life continues at Consolidated. At lunch, Doralee asks Judy out to lunch but Judy refuses having heard the untrue rumors about Doralee and Mr. Hart. Meanwhile, Violet is passed over for another promotion which goes to a man she trained. Doralee confronts Hart in his office but to no avail and then she finds out that Hart is spreading rumors about an affair between them. She confronts the man and threatens to neuter him with a pistol if he does not stop spreading lies.

The three women now unite in their hatred of the boss and go to Violet’s house to drink and smoke some grass. Each one launches into a fantasy as to what they would really like to do with their boss. Judy is an unforgiving femme fatale, Doralee is a hard riding rodeo star and Violet is Snow White mixing up a deadly potion that she delivers in Hart’s morning coffee that is her job to provide every day.

Back at the office, Violet accidentally acts out her fantasy by putting rat poison into Hart’s coffee. Roz hears the women talking in the ladies room and dutifully reports back to Hart. He comes up with a plan to fake his poisoning and threaten them with police action. Hart confronts Doralee with the information which angers her so much she rips out the phone lines and ties up the man (which he seems to enjoy a lot). The three girls end up kidnapping their boss and taking him to his own house as his wife is away traveling for a few weeks. Hart is thus trussed up on his bed, the women take turns watching over him and begin making plans to change how the office is run by sending out memos with Hart’s forged signature. Soon, the office is working much better with free day care, time sharing, flexible hours and longer breaks.

As for this production, it is amazing that with a cast of twenty actors they manage to sing, dance and prance about the small stage without doing each other bodily harm. The eight piece orchestra is more than up to the task but there was something off with the sound system on Saturday as they sounded muted. There was also a problem at the end of the show when the various principles deliver their epilogues. It was rather difficult to hear what they were saying.

As for the acting, it was of a high standard. Most notable was Mary Fowler as the love struck Roz. Her bathroom number “Heart to Hart” is hilarious with all of the females dressed alike in Roz’s trademark gray wig and red business suit dancing and singing up a storm. Tara Corkery as Violet, Marybeth Knode as Doralee and Stephanie Malfara as Judy work very well together. The ensemble is very strong throughout the performance. Mason Stewart as the man you love to hate, Mr. Hart is perfect in his character.

The stage design by Tom West deals well with a slew of set changes. I was not sure if the slamming into place of the various panels was a deliberate humorous ploy, but it worked well to that effect as the walls were rushed into place with a bang. Brenton Cochran directed the production keeping everything moving along at a fast pace. Wendi Owens sees to it that everyone is clothed in period garb with lots of complicated costume changes. Bob Wachsberger handles the light board and does a fine job keeping everything properly illuminated. Lastly, the slew of office props are the work of Christine Francisco who did a fine job in procurement.

It is always difficult to pull off a show that began as a hit movie. We, as an audience, tend to judge any stage production based on our memories of the film. In this case, Chagrin Valley Little Theatre has made this show their own and are having a fun time performing it as well. Buy a ticket, sit back and enjoy.

The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre production of “9 to 5” will be on stage at 40 River Street, Chagrin Falls, Ohio through April 13, 2024. For more information and to purchase tickets go to or call (440) 247-8955.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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