9 to 5, A Hot Cup of Ambition for the Little Guy. 

by Jamie Bullins

So, I am old enough to clearly remember the 1980 film version of 9 to 5 that started it all off. I also have to reveal that I cannot remember how many times I’ve seen it. It was such a joy to watch the sweetly dished out comeuppance that Dabney Coleman’s despicable Mr. Hart received, over and over again. It didn’t hurt that Dolly, Jane, and Lily were fabulous serving it up. Now that I’ve said that, you certainly don’t have to be of any specific age to enjoy this story, superbly told by The STAGE Theater for me and the others in attendance at last night’s opening. 

I’ve seen a handful of productions now at The STAGE in Hickman, and there’s a certain bar that they have set for themselves. And, being relatively new to the area, when I first went there, I had no idea what to expect. Now that I’m a member of The STAGE family, as you are instructed, being a repeat attendee, I have rather high expectations. And, that’s certainly ok, because, so far, they haven’t disappointed. 9 to 5 – The Musical is no different. 

Julie Enersen, Chloe Schwarting, Natalie Nuckolls, and Sam Ninegar do the lion’s share of the work here with the help of a strong ensemble, with highlights from Michael J. Corner and Laura Lynn Horst. The principal ladies form a strong trio right off and drive through the evening with a welcoming panache. I promise that’s not too strong a descriptor, either. You champion their cause immediately, partially due to despising Sam Ninegar’s well crafted “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot” of a Mr. Hart. 

Stand out musical moments include Schwarting’s “Backwoods Barbie,” the trio’s “Shine Like the Sun,” Enersen’s “One of the Boys,” and Nuckolls’s “Get Out and Stay Out.” 

The use of space and the aesthetics of the world of the story, which is another high expectation one always has when going to The STAGE, and one that is consistently met, is well crafted throughout. Robert Wamsley is a busy fellow. His name is connected to the scenic, costume, and lighting design, as well as directing the show itself. Kudos to Wamsley and his collaborators for a job well done. The staging was this well-crafted jigsaw puzzle that rotated and shifted from scene to scene, while housing this somewhat sizeable musical and its ensemble while they typed, twirled, and tousled about from setting to setting. There’s a great surprise reveal in there as well. No spoilers here.

And, you know what, there were a couple of small technical glitches opening night. I notice them because I’m a theatre artist myself. Few others may have, but none of them jolted me out of the show and the world. They reminded me of what good artists do when things go a bit awry in live theatre. They adjust. They fix it and make it work. That’s just what they should do, and they did. It’s one of the great things about that live aspect of performance. It hones those improvisation skills that help make us successful in life outside the theatre. Thanks for including me in those moments as well. 

I know there are some shows for 9 to 5 that are sold out already. Check the website and head out to Hickman. It’s only a short drive and the payoff is more than worth it. If I had time to go see it again, I would. 

If you go: You can catch 9 to 5 March 5-8 & 12-15 with 7:30 pm curtain times Thursday – Saturday and 2:00 pm on Sundays. Reservations are encouraged and can be made online.

Jamie Bullins is a member of the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an educator, scenographer, director, and playwright and has been at it for almost 25 years now.

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