BY CHARLES WHALEY
Can it be that Derby Dinner Playhouse is the place to go for the sexiest show around town?
With its no-holds-barred production of Dolly Parton and Patricia Resnick’s musical adaptation of “9 to 5,” their 1980 blockbuster film, the theatre’s lusty take on female empowerment in the workplace hits all the right buttons.
And there could be no better opening number than Parton’s catchy title tune from the movie.
Chafing under the rule of their sexist, egotistical, bigoted boss Franklin Hart Jr., of Consolidated Industries (Matthew Bryan Feld), three secretaries team up to do something about it.
They are Violet Newstead (Jillian Prefach), a widow and single mother with a talent for management; Judy Bernly (Sarah Ann Koster), dumped with no working skills by a husband who divorced her for a 19-year-old; and Doralee Rhodes (Elizabeth Bailey), a sexy down-home type coveted by their lascivious chief. All three Derby actresses are first-rate In the film they were played respectively by Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton.
In “Backwoods Barbie — in a push-up bra and heels” Doralee laments how people judge her on her looks. This hurts her feelings.
When she finds out that Hart has been letting people think they’ve been having an affair, she explodes, telling him she has a gun in her purse and can “change him from a rooster to a hen.”
Fed up with work, the three women escape to Violet’s home to smoke pot and dream of ways to rid themselves of Hart. These imagined episodes are witty vignettes: Judy shooting Hart in a film noir a la “Double Indemnity;” Doralee roping Hart in a rodeo, commenting on his buns and pecs as she touches them; and Violet dressing up as a demented Snow White preparing a poison for him.
What they really do is kidnap Hart and truss him up over his bed at home (his wife’s away on a cruise), then run the office in an enlightened way that makes everybody happy.
But how long can they keep Hart out of their hair this way? It becomes dicey when Hart’s slavish assistant Roz (Elizabeth Loos) starts asking questions. So they devise a ruse to get her sent away on special assignment.
Loos is a powerhouse singer/comic who touts her lovelorn devotion to her boss in her show-stopping “Heart to Hart.”
Violet’s big number, “One of the Boys,” has her becoming CEO as chorus boys in white suits like hers dance and sing her praises. Judy’s heartfelt “Get Out and Stay Out,” sung to her errant ex-husband as he seeks to return to her, gets a thunderous response.
Escaping from his bondage (Judy calls it “M and M”) Hart tries to reassert his power. But there are more twists and turns before the women — no longer coffee-fetching “girls” — triumph. Violet even finds love with a younger executive (Derek Basthemer) in their “Let Love Grow” duet.
Lee Buckholz’s sharp-eyed direction highlights the comedy ranging from gentle to outrageous in the show produced by Bekki Jo Schneider. Heather Paige Folsom contributes dazzling choreography and Sharon Murray Harrah provides costumes that nicely evoke the period.
“9 to 5” runs through May 19. For tickets and information, visit derbydinner.com or call 812-288-8281 or toll free 877-898-8577.