With the recent slew of sexual assault allegations and the consequent rise of female empowerment, Foothill Music Theatre’s upcoming production of “9 to 5 The Musical” – a comedy that tackles the experience of women in a patriarchal workplace – seems especially timely.
However, director Milissa Carey didn’t have that in mind when she selected the musical last year.
“I wanted to find something interesting and relevant to our present day,” she said. “This idea of the Me Too movement that’s happening … I didn’t have any idea of that when I was picking a musical.”
Based on screenwriter Patricia Resnick’s hit movie, “9 to 5” features songs by Dolly Parton, who starred in the 1980 film.
The story centers on three women working at Consolidated Industries. Faced with a misogynistic boss, the women must deal with his sexual harassment as they attempt to climb the ranks. They soon join forces to combat sexism in the workplace.
Women behind the scenes
The theme of women coming together is reflected in those working behind the scenes to make the musical happen. The entire production team of “9 to 5” comprises women.
Allie Townsend – who plays Doralee Rhodes (Parton’s character in the movie) – deeply appreciates the focus on female empowerment.
“I really love that the story has roots in female creativity,” she said. “Working on the story with women at the helm has been such a joy.”
Actors are using the musical’s comedic format to encourage conversation on real-life situations. Townsend said the story “really blends together farce and satire; the commentary we’re making is very rooted in reality.”
Carey echoed Townsend’s sentiments.
“Even though the musical is comedic, we’re still addressing the issues,” Carey said.
The script subtly hints at the universal issue of women being patronized in the workplace.
“We never know what industry the girls in the musical work in – it’s industry agnostic,” Townsend said. “What they do isn’t important – the issues are a problem anywhere.”
While “9 to 5” is typically a gaudy musical, Carey has toned it down to fit the smaller stage at Foothill College’s Lohman Theatre.
“We’ve focused on moments of storytelling as opposed to big production numbers,” she said. “The dances will all be there, but there’ll be fewer people; that way it’ll be more character driven.”
It will also make the heart of the story more accessible to the audience, according to Carey, and make more of an impact on those filling the 140-seat theater.
“We let the script ultimately speak for itself,” she said.
Carey and Townsend both said they hope audiences enjoy the lighthearted music and fun plot but also glean something from the musical’s more serious themes.
“I hope the audience will take away that everyone deserves to be respected, and people should speak up for themselves, and women are capable of running their own businesses, and there’s more than one way to success,” Carey said.
Townsend hopes “9 to 5” will resonate with women and also inspire individuals to work toward creating equality in the workplace.
“We still have a lot of work to do to make the world a truly equal place,” she said. “You will watch a farce and you will walk away and be able to draw parallels to your own life if you’re a woman.”
Performances of “9 to 5” are scheduled 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 18 at Foothill College, 12345 S. El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.
Tickets are $12-$32. Parking is $3.
For advance tickets and more information, call 949-7360 or visit foothill.edu/theatre/productions/9to5.html.