Theatre Review: ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ by Rocking Horse Productions at Lancaster Opera House


The cast of “9 to 5 The Musical” by Rocking Horse Productions at Lancaster Opera House.

Yesterday evening, I went to the Lancaster Opera House to see “9 to 5: The Musical,” presented by Rocking Horse Productions. Music and Lyrics are by Dolly Parton and the book is by Patricia Resnick. The musical is based on the popular 1980 movie by Resnick and Colin Higgins which starred Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda as office workers who are tyrannized by their lecherous boss.

. . .a pleasant production. . .

This is a story about employees who are being treated so unfairly by their boss that they kidnap him, hold him captive for a month, and take over operations at work themselves. It’s very farfetched and mostly played for easy laughs. Perhaps my sensibilities have changed over the years. This premise seemed entertaining when the film came out. Over time, since sexism in high places is still such a serious and relevant issue, this lighthearted, over the top approach made me feel uneasy.

The strongest suit of this production is the musical direction by Eric J. Van Pyrz – including his terrific nine piece orchestra and the consistently good singing by both the chorus and the leads. The only challenge with the singing is lyrics are sometimes difficult to understand. As good as the chorus’ vocal work is, however, in most of the musical numbers, the chorus’ role is pretty extraneous and sometimes even a distraction. It is no fault of this production; this is just not a well integrated book.

Susana Breese is perfect as Judy, the Jane Fonda role. Ms. Breese is pert, pretty, and genuinely funny and she gives a fully realized performance. Her rendition of the transition song “Get Out and Stay Out” is a wow and the high point of the evening.

Anne DeFazio and Emily Styn, who play Judy’s partners in crime, are also strong singers. Ms. Styn is a blonde bombshell in the Dolly Parton vein and Ms. DeFazio plays it more Bea Arthur than Lily Tomlin.

Derrik Reynolds, as the evil boss, oozes the requisite oily passion in his big number, “Here For You.” And Lauren McGowan, as his camel-hunched, knock kneed lovesick assistant, is an absolute hoot! Under that business suit, she’s a tiger and, when she roars, she brings down the house!

Sound by GB Audio is good, although sometimes the chorus drowns out the soloists. And there’s nice scenery by Chuck Ziehl, especially the beautiful bookcase backdrop in the boss’s office.

“9 to 5: The Musical” is a long show – two and a half hours – but director Leigha Eichhorn keeps things moving along.

This is a pleasant production with solid vocal work and the Opera House audience had a good time.

Running Time: 2 Hours and 30 Minutes with one 15 Minute intermission.

“9 to 5 The Musical” runs until September 24, 2017, is produced by Rocking Horse Productions, and is presented at the Lancaster Opera House. For more information, click here.


Rocking Horse Productions Celebrates Eleventh Season

For the last eleven seasons, Rocking Horse Productions has been a staple at the Lancaster Opera House. A company that prides itself on casting new and veteran talent, Rocking Horse Productions has been responsible for the start of many theatrical careers in the Buffalo area. A producer of great theatrical content, Rocking Horse celebrates their 2017 – 2018 season by kicking it off with “9 to 5 The Musical.”

“We are excited to be producing this show,” says Douglas Kern, executive producer of Rocking Horse Productions, “it is fun, upbeat, and it is going to speak to many generations.”

“9 to 5 The Musical” is based on the 1980 film, which starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton. A tale of a group of women who are tired of being mistreated by their chauvinistic boss, take matters into their own hands to prove their worth in the workplace. This musical adaptation follows the same plot as the film, and includes a brand new score by Dolly Parton.

“I was a fan of the movie, and I was really excited when Doug asked me to direct this show,” says Leigha Eichhorn who is at the helm of this production, “it’s a fun show that still speaks a current message about equality, and about women who are trying to succeed in the business world.”

This show, which has gone through a transition from its 2009 Broadway run, has songs written by country music legend Dolly Parton, but that should not deter theatergoers who might not be fans of country music. “These songs aren’t your typical sappy country western songs,” says Eichborn, “they keep a positive message.”

In a world where Hollywood film adaptations grace the stage all too often as of late, Eichhorn says that if you are a fan of the movie, you will love this show. “The cast is fantastic and is really bringing the vision to life. The audience will not be disappointed.”

Rocking Horse also is producing the Christmas classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” this December. “We are happy to bring this full version of the show to the stage,” says Kern.

This show is under the direction of Jane Navarro, who directed Rocking Horse’s successful run of “A Few Good Men” last season. “It’s A Wonderful Life,’ is a great Christmas tradition, says Navarro, “I am happy to be working with new talent as well as with people I have worked with in the past.”

Navarro says that she is excited to be working with a cast that will reach over thirty people. “Everyone is going to bring something unique to this show that is going to make it very special.”

Navarro says that there is a certain expectation that theatergoers have when going to see a show that is so familiar to them. “You have to toe a fine line between giving the people what they are familiar with, and bringing your own unique twist to the material. ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings,’ has to be there, or the audience will be let down.”

Eichhorn and Navarro direct shows later this season as well.  Eichhorn’s next project is “Charlotte’s Web.” “We have never done a show geared toward children before,” says Kern, “so we were honored to be asked by the executive director of the Lancaster Opera House to do so.”

Navarro directs Rocking Horse’s first dinner theatre production, “Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class,” one of the sequels to the successful “Nunsense” shows, written by Dan Goggin.

“9 to 5 The Musical” opens on September 8, 2017 at the Lancaster Opera House.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” runs December 1 – 10, 2017 at the Lancaster Opera House

“Charlotte’s Web” runs March 23- 25, 2018 at the Lancaster Opera House

“Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class” runs January 26 – February 4, 2018 at Ripa’s Restaurant.

For tickets and more information, click here.