Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Parton Shot for the Little Theatre's Season

Get out and stay out, I've finally had enough
Don't kiss me on your way out, it wouldn't move me much
You used me, abused me, you cheated and you lied
So get out and stay out, I'm taking back my life.
— “Get Out and Stay Out” by Dolly Parton
By Dan Hagen
From men who kidnap willing women to women who kidnap an unwilling man, the Little Theatre’s 2012 season has covered some cultural ground.
The fact that both shows are musical comedies based on popular films only serves to underline the cultural distance that we Americans traveled from the charmingly sexist “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” in 1954 to the firmly feminist “9 to 5” in 1980.
Three decades on, and “9 to 5” is a Broadway stage musical opening today at the Little Theatre, directed by Amy Marie McCleary.
Like the oppressive office in which these characters work, shows are often man-centric. So it’s kind of refreshing to see a show that features three strong female leads — Therese Kincade, Tiffany Sparks and Karla Shook.
In the Dabney Coleman role of the skirt-chasing, credit-stealing, condescending creep boss we have Timothy Booth, who knows how to cut a swath with such strutting, gaudy material.
His assistant, Roz, is Paula Scrofano, an actress who turns the minor role of this lovelorn company spy into a crowd-pleasing centerpiece of the show. She declares her unrequited passion in the song “Heart to Heart,” and can sell the laughs with a whisper or a full-out desktop dance.
Shook is Judy, the uncertain, unsure and newly unmarried woman who is tackling her first job at the office. Her beautiful voice finally rings with confidence and conviction when she confronts her ex in “Get Out and Stay Out.”
Sparks has the Dolly Parton role of Doralee, a tricky task she handles with professional ease. Think how hard it would be to play a buxom Parton clone without descending into painful parody. This actress adroitly dodges that trap. Sparks somehow brings Parton’s real spark into the role, suggesting all the intelligence and big-hearted compassion that hides behind Parton’s wink.
Therese Kincade and her dancing boys
And my long-time friend Therese Kincade plays Violet, the widowed mom whose workplace competence is exploited instead of being rewarded. Kincade has always belonged on stage. It’s a space she inhabits and fills with her Eve Arden-like stage presence.
Two of Kincade’s gifts are dead-on comic timing and genuineness of emotional reaction. The latter is on display in “Let Love Grow,” her duet with the younger man (Ashton Byrum) who tries to draw her back into a full life. She also has brassy fun as the center of attention in “One of the Boys,” a sort of reverse-sexism number in which she’s a female CEO surrounded by sinuously swaying dancing boys dressed in suspenders and undershirts.
A triple-threat highlight of the show, augmented by Timmy Valentine’s flashy costuming, is the trio of fantasy sequences in which Shook, Sparks and Kincade relish the ways in which they’d like to put paid to their boss — Raymond Chandler, Dale Evans and the Brothers Grimm, respectively. I never expected to see Therese Kincade in that Snow White costume, and the image is going to stay with me for the remainder of my days on Earth.
Finally, there is Dolly Parton herself, who puts in appearances in film sequences framing the show and whose sunny spirit pervades it. She wrote the music and lyrics for the show’s 16 songs.
I remember Jane Fonda, one of the stars of the original film comedy with Parton, saying they had vaguely discussed the need for a theme song based on the title, and that Parton, humming to herself, astounded them by coming up with the famous tune in what seemed to be minutes.
That film comedy was quite successful in its day, but I think this feel-good farcical material works even better as a musical comedy.
Incidental Intelligence: ‘9 to 5’ has music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, who wrote the original film screenplay with director Colin Higgins.
The cast also features Sam Hay, CJ Pawlikowski, Lauren Patton, Jennifer Seifter, Kelsey Andres, Heather Dore’ Johnson, Rachel LaPorte, Jared Titus, Cary Mitchell, John Reeger, Mandy Modic, Darrin French, Jacob Lacopo and Justin Ronald Mock.
The show has scenic design by Jen Price-Fick, lighting design by Matthew J. Fick and stage management by Jane Davis. The music director is Joshua Zecher-Ross.
Performances will run through Aug 12. Tickets may be purchased by calling The Little Theatre on the Square Box Office at (217)-728-7375 or online at www

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