Woman power: Feisty trio propels Metropolis’ ‘9 to 5’ revival

“9 to 5: The Musical” — 2.5 stars

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre’s revival of “9 to 5: The Musical” is an ideal springtime diversion.

Based on the 1980 film starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, this pleasantly innocuous salute to female empowerment is about put-upon secretaries bullied by a chauvinist male boss, who turn the tables on him and transform their sexist, oppressive workplace into one where every employee thrives.

The 2008 tuner by composer/lyricist Parton (whose bouncy theme song from the movie serves as the musical’s opening number) and writer Patricia Resnick (from the screenplay she co-wrote with Colin Higgins) doesn’t demand much from audiences.

Long-suffering secretary Doralee (Janelle Sanabria), the blonde, gets back at her lecherous boss Franklin Hart (David Gordon-Johnson), seated, in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's “9 to 5: The Musical.” Courtesy of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

Nothing wrong with that. A little escapist entertainment never hurt anyone. Although the mood sours slightly when “9 to 5” references workplace inequities like the underrepresentation of women in management and the persistent salary imbalance between women and men doing the same job. (By recent estimates, women still earn 84 cents on the dollar compared to men).

Occupying musical theater’s second tier, “9 to 5” has in Parton’s agreeable, if not especially memorable score, respectable Broadway-style tunes, including the second act opener “One of the Boys,” the 11 o’clock ballad “Get Out and Stay Out” and “Backwoods Barbie,” a likable number about deceiving appearances. Resnick’s serviceable book echoes the screenplay and retains Parton’s famous rooster-hen wisecrack, a not-so-subtle threat from a sexually harassed secretary to her lecherous boss.

Director Landree Fleming keeps her playful revival moving. Enhanced by Jenna Schoppe’s fun choreography and Jazmin Aurora Medina’s glittery, colorful costumes, the fantasy sequences — during which Violet (Melissa Crabtree), Doralee (Janelle Sanabria) and Judy (Savannah Sinclair) imagine how they’d dispatch their awful boss Franklin Hart (David Gordon-Johnson) — are deliciously entertaining.

The production, whose creative team consists mostly of female and nonbinary artists, benefits from a strong female chorus and feisty performances by its three leading ladies.

Savannah Sinclair plays newly divorced Judy, who's entering the workplace for the first time in “9 to 5: The Musical,” running through May 26 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Courtesy of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

As Violet, the long-suffering officer manager struggling to ascend the corporate ladder, Crabtree conveys wry, self-assurance and nice comedic timing. Making her Chicago-area debut is college senior Sanabria, charming as country sweetheart Doralee, who’s ostracized by co-workers who mistakenly believe she’s sleeping with the boss. Sinclair, whose lovely voice recalls Joseph Jefferson Award-winner Cory Goodrich, plays recently divorced Judy, who gives her cheating ex the heave-ho in a powerhouse performance of the anthemic “Get Out and Stay Out” that nearly stopped the show.

Also deserving mention is August Forman’s amiable ally Joe, a junior accountant who’s sweet on Violet, and Kelli Clevenger’s perpetually inebriated Margaret.

The action unfolds on Eleanor Kahn’s utilitarian set, which consists of a turntable that spins to reveal Hart’s massive desk and panels that swing open to allow set pieces to slide into place, making for fairly smooth transitions. Some design elements are less effective. That includes several outsize, ill-fitting wigs, which overwhelmed the characters and were an unnecessary distraction.

• • •

Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121,

Showtimes: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, and Thursday and Friday, May 23-24; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, May 18 and 25; 3 p.m. Sundays, May 19 and 26

Running time: About 2 hours, 10 minutes, with intermission

Tickets: $45, $20 for students

Parking: Nearby garage and street parking

Rating: Teens and older; contains some adult language, references sexual harassment, includes broadly comic violence

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