‘9 to 5’ musical hits area stage

MARIETTA – Gut-busting laughs await audiences who head to the Actors Guild of Parkersburg’s performance of “9 to 5: The Musical” throughout August, one of six performances the organization puts on in the Mid-Ohio Valley throughout the year.

The Actors Guild is a regular recipient of grant funding from Artsbridge, a Parkersburg-based agency with the mission of fostering the arts and art education in the area.

With help from a joint grant shared with the Parkersburg Art Center, the 25-member cast of the musical version of the hit 1980 movie, along with the production crew and the rest of the guild, hopes to contribute to that Artsbridge mission.

“In our schools, a lot of that (art) is missing, and in this area, it seems like people are really starting to want it more and more,” said “9 to 5” director Robin White. “I think people are more appreciative of the arts in the area and are really starting to see the value in it.”

White said the past several musicals, which are put on three times a year, have all been sold out.

“There’s just been a big demand, and it’s not the same people coming over and over again,” he said.

The show, which opened Aug. 8 and runs for three weekends, is the musical version of the hit Dolly Parton movie “Nine to Five,” which portrays the comedic antics of three female co-workers in the 1970s who plot to take down their egotistical and sexist boss.

“It’s a very popular show, and it’s great for community theater,” said musical director Mike Dotson. “It’s very funny, and there are some scenes that you will absolutely belly laugh for, and the music is accessible for the normal listener.”

Blends of country, gospel and pop music comprise the show, as Dolly Parton herself composed the entire musical’s score.

“It’s definitely a comedy, and it’s ornery,” White said. “And if they liked the movie, they’ll love the show, because the musical really follows close to it.”

Dotson, who has worked for the guild since 1984, said the show was chosen alongside five others for the season as part of the guild’s play selection process.

“Over the course of the year before the season, the (play reading) committee reads something like a hundred shows, and goes through and assesses the content, the messages, the entertainment values, what the popularity would be, then they come forward with six slots to fill,” he said.

Those slots include three musicals, three non-musicals, and one show for the Guild Builders, the organization’s youth program.

“I grew up loving Dolly Parton, and my family was always around country music, so when I heard we were going to do it, I knew I wanted to get involved,” said White, who has worked at the guild for about eight years.

Belpre resident Stephanie Taylor plays Doralee Rhodes, one of the three female leads, and will be easy to recognize as the iconic Dolly Parton character, blond wig and all.

“I’ve been doing this for probably four years, and I’ve always been in performing arts, basically since I could walk,” Taylor said. “I have a deep appreciation for arts and theater, and it’s always been fun to serve the arts community.”

Taylor said as the production rolls into its last two weeks before opening night, she is excited to show the audience the sweet, southern girl in the office that is often underestimated because of her appearance.

“It’s intimidating to step into a role that Dolly Parton is so known for, but there’s a lot of iconic moments in the show that are fun to capture,” she said. “It’s always super intense and quite stressful in the days and weeks leading up to opening night, but the cool thing is it always comes off without a hitch.”

The Actors Guild of Parkersburg was established in the early 1940s when some area radio personalities and theater fans established a group know as “The Players,” and the group called several buildings home before moving into its present location at the old Lincoln Theatre on Market Street in Parkersburg in the later half of the 20th century.

“Artsbridge has been such a great supporter and a great shot in the arm for the Actors Guild over the years,” Dotson said. “Their financial support has dated back many years, and it has allowed us to keep going.”

In addition to “9 to 5,” the guild will also finish off 2014 with performances of “Moonlight and Magnolias” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”