Featuring the regional premier of "9 To 5 - The Musical", Peoria Players Theater opened their 2012 - 2013 season not with a bang but with a whimper.
"9 To 5 - the Musical" is based on the 1980 movie "9 to 5" starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda as three downtrodden office workers who become feminist heroes when they kidnap their mean chauvinistic boss (Dabney Coleman) and take over the company.
The stage adaptation adds musical numbers but follows the movie perhaps too closely, even using exact dialog from the film.
In many ways this sets up a difficult challenge for the actors. After all, Dolly Parton has awfully big ... shoes ... to fill.
There are aspects of the Players production that should have resulted in a fine show, but in the end it simply did not come together.
All the principals have good voices and for the most part delivered their songs well. (Choreography, well, that's another story!)
Rachel Lewis as Doralee (the Dolly role) delivered well vocally but plodded through her numbers with a lack of energy and enthusiasm. The number "Back Woods Barbie" is all about confidence in her identity. It should have been a fun and rollicking number but Ms. Lewis barely cracked a smile and made it seem like a chore.
Kelli Mathis as Violet suffered from the same timidity. Her dance numbers were painful to watch as I could almost see her counting her steps, stone faced.
I suppose this can be chalked up to the direction.
Perhaps Director Nate Downs concentrated too much on technique rather than encouraging his actors to let go, inhabit their roles, and have fun.
The third lead, Katie McLuckie as Judy had just the opposite problem as the other two. Her take on the character was way too much confidence!
Ms. McLuckie wowed us a season or two ago with her exceptional portrayal of Kitty in "The Drowsy Chaperone". While that role is all about "mugging for the camera", her Judy would have been much better if dialed back a notch.
I couldn't help but imagine that the show would have been vastly improved if Ms. McLuckie and Ms. Mathis had switched roles.
The one actor who got the correct mix of technique and confidence was Carolyn Briggs-Gaul as Roz. She stole the show with her strip-tease number on the boss' desk.
It was the show-stopper of the evening!
Despite the problems with this show, the audience (one of the smallest houses I have seen at Peoria Players) gave the performance a standing ovation.
I realize that an opening night audience is probably heavy with friends and families of the performers who felt obligated to give a pity ovation.
However, it drives this theater snob crazy that Peoria Players patrons think EVERY show there merits a standing ovation. This one just didn't.
Anyone who would stand for this production has spent too many hours on the sofa anticipating the antics of Honey Boo-Boo.