Dolly in the CLE: CWRU’s Footlighters’ production of 9 to 5

The Footlighters joyously feminine production of 9 to 5 was directed by Milana Sacco, a fourth-year theater and business major. The cast dazzled with their dance numbers and harmonies, exhibiting strong voices that radiated emotion.
The Footlighters’ joyously feminine production of “9 to 5” was directed by Milana Sacco, a fourth-year theater and business major. The cast dazzled with their dance numbers and harmonies, exhibiting strong voices that radiated emotion.
Courtesy of Ashley Rosinski/Footlighters

Seemingly coordinated with both Pitbull and Beyonce’s recent music releases featuring Dolly Parton, last weekend Case Western Reserve University’s on-campus musical group Footlighters presented four charming performances of Parton’s musical “9 to 5.” The show is based on the smash hit 1980 movie of the same name, also starring Parton. From March 28-30 in Eldred Theater, Footlighters delighted audiences with spectacular costumes, exhilarating choreography, endearing comedy and genuine heartfelt sentiments that will not soon be forgotten by attendees.

Set in the late 1970s, the musical’s story follows three working class women: Violet Newstead (Keira Celebuski), Doralee Rhodes (Daphne Brown) and Judy Bernley (Katie Frick). The three struggle under the oppressive systems of masculinity and misogyny that run rampant in their workplace. When the girls decide that rather than pitting themselves against one another, they can work as a team, they end up biting off a bit more than they can chew. They kidnap their misogynistic boss, Franklin Hart (Christopher Tipton), and hold him captive for a month, all the while implementing new measures under his name that better the working environment exponentially for everyone. When Hart eventually escapes and finds his way back into the office, he is astounded to find that the place is up in productivity a whole twenty percent. When confronted by the higher-ups, he is tricked into taking a job away from the office, leaving the three women to manage it—much to their excitement.

Director Milana Sacco, a fourth-year theater and business major, was able to capture the feminine joy that radiates from the script and music and present it with satisfying pacing and staging. Her vision for the production is evident in the obvious work done with the actors’ voices, the emotional arcs of the characters and the endearingly whimsical technical aspects of the show.

The Footlighter’s production of “9 to 5” boasts an incredible amount of talent. From the lovely blend of Violet and Joe’s (AJ Williams) voices, to Roz’s (Daniela Richardson) unbounded comedic abilities and Judy’s incredible belting, the show overflowed with joy and was a prime example of the fruits of student-lead theater. The love that has been poured into every crevice of this show radiates from each dance step and harmony, just as Parton intended it to.

Almost 45 years later, the story of women standing together against workplace oppression still unfortunately resonates with audiences. The tune of Parton’s hit song remains popular as well, capturing listeners whether they’re humming along to the radio on the way to work, walking to their next class with the tune playing in their earbuds or gazing up at the stage where actors spin and step in time to “9 to 5.

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