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‘9 to 5: The Musical’ presents ‘difficult issues through the lens of comedy’ on The Wayne stage

The Wayne Theatre will present “9 to 5: The Musical” from April 26-28 and May 3-5, 2024. Photos by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

Before the #MeToo movement, a film in the 1980s brought to light the struggle of women in the American workplace.

During the last weekend in April and first weekend in May, The Wayne Theatre in Waynesboro will bring “9 to 5: The Musical” to the stage.

Director Lesley Larsen said she chose the production as an excellent opportunity to provide a more in-depth look at characters who are loved by fans of the 1980 film.

“I really like it because it is addressing difficult issues through the lens of comedy,” Larsen said of the production for which Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics.

The comedy has sparked conversations among the cast about real-life, personal experiences of sexism in the workplace.

The country music legend starred in the 1980 film with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The musical was first performed on Broadway in April 2009.

Parton’s challenging music sequences will be brought to the stage by a live band of 10 local musicians.

Larsen said she hopes the story remains with audience members after they leave the theater and sparks conversations about personal experiences.

Parton’s music and lyrics take the audience on a journey and suggest that change is possible in America’s workplace.

“She truly is a national treasure and I just am so grateful at The Wayne that we’re able to honor her in this way,” Larsen said.

While the show is age appropriate, Larsen cautions parents about bringing younger children to see the production for certain themes that are presented.

The Wayne Theatre cast includes 22 actors.

Julia Robertson will portray “Roz” on stage. Audience members have previously seen her in “Pride & Prejudice,” “Dial M for Murder” and “Murder on the Orient Express” at The Wayne.

In preparation of her role, Robertson said she watched all the performances of the show she could and each performance portrays a different “Roz.” For her performance, she focused on acting choices to bring her version of “Roz” to the stage.

Her singing experience as part of the Virginia Consort helped prepare her for singing at The Wayne.

She called “9 to 5” comfort food musical theater.

“My character is just daft,” she said of “Roz.”

She hopes audience members take away from the show the opportunity for family time and recognize the friendships in the story. She also hopes they enjoy Parton’s songs.

“This show, I wake up singing songs and I go to bed singing songs,” Robertson said. “I’m backstage singing almost all the songs in the show.”

In one of the three leads, Katherine McLean will bring “Doralee” to the stage. Audience members previously saw her on stage before 2018 in “Shrek: The Musical,” and in ShenanArts productions when she was in high school.

“I have always loved this show. Admired the message so much. Thought it was really empowering to see three female leads,” McLean, 28, said. She saw a local production of the musical. “And I immediately fell in love with the music and, of course, we owe all that to Dolly.”

In preparation of her role, McLean recognized that both ends of an emotional rollercoaster are represented on stage. The three main characters exhibit vulnerability and strength, happiness and misery.

“I think that is a realistic piece of the show,” McLean said.

She watched several versions of the production and gathered much help from the artistic team and Larsen.

McLean said her goal was to find a balance between portraying a role made famous by Parton, a fictitious character named “Doralee” and Kat as a performer. 

She felt pressure to do right by the role, but a good kind of pressure that motivated her to do the role justice. Her challenge was in finding the right accent for “Doralee.”

“It’s been fun and challenging in all the best ways,” McLean said.

She said she hopes audience members laugh, but that they also gain the perspective for the importance of respect, equity and equality in the workplace.

“9 to 5: The Musical” will be performed Friday, April 26, 2024, at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 27 at 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m., Friday, May 3 at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 4 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.