KAYSVILLE — Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville, Utah is presenting the jovial and yes absolutely misogynistic (it’s ok, they know it) musical 9 to 5, based on the 1980 movie of the same name, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick. For anyone who has not seen the movie or the musical, the story follows employees working at an office in the 80s, where the people who do all the work get none of the credit, and many of the people (especially women) who are down the chain of command get put against each other so that the people in power can stay as such. As the story unfolds and the workers connect more to each other and against the man in power, misogynist Franklin Hart, played in a masterful fashion by Andrew Cole, they  see the proverbial wizard behind the curtain and start to actually work together to make their work and their lives better.

The first thing that I noticed in this production was the set design by JD Madsen. Because most of the show happens in the office, the fact that the walls of the small Hopebox were lined with the filing cabinets of pre-internet office style was a nice effect. However, when the show started and the utility of those filing cabinets opening up and showing within them the different needs of the set, from desks to a copy machine and more, I was quite delighted. Throughout Utah we have a lot of quaint and wonderful small community theatres, which give us difficult and interesting challenges within set design. Madsen rose to the challenge with this show in this space, finding ways to have the foundation of the office and adding smaller elements that could disappear in a flash, allowing for a full stage for dancing and scene work.

The next bit of joy that came from this production was the casting of the full ensemble. Having seen a few productions of 9 to 5, much of the previous casting has been focused on dancing prowess. One thing that stands out with a lot of theatre casting and conversation is the lack of diverse body sizes and ages within theatre. Sometimes this is due to who tries out, but other times, this is also placed on who the director chooses to cast. Having been a part of the workforce for literal decades now, I will say that a diversity of body types, ages, abilities, and interests is always found. I was pleased with much of the representation on stage. In fact, the choices really made me happy with how director Carol Madsen put thought and caring into the community that showed up to be a part of this show. And this is not to say that they chose diversity over talent. The choreography by Dylan Watson was excellent, and some of the people who may not have been seen as typical dancers in the ensemble were shining on stage and catching my eye.

The main three characters of the show, Violet played by Andrea Wood, Doralee played by Erin Porter, and Judy played by Crystl Naylor, were strong additions to this narrative. Wood as Violet was excellent as a character that has been the strong yet walked over office manager for years. After the ensemble opens up the show with the familiar 9 to 5, her song Around Here sets the pace and the tone for the whole show, and Wood simply made that song feel like someone who was making an office run smoothly her priority.

Porter as Doralee was full of charm, and her song Backwoods Barbie really fit the bill. This role is a difficult one to play, because there is no way around the Dolly Parton comparisons. While Porter was able to lean into the Parton like qualities, I also enjoyed how she connected with both Wood and Naylor so well that a friendship between all of them was believable.

With the side character stories, one of the standouts was Amy Turner as Roz, the dedicated assistant to Mr. Hart. Her song Heart to Hart is really rather creepy when you think about it, and as an actress it can be hard to sing it without breaking, but Turner excelled. Her voice was strong and fun to listen to but it was her acting that stole the show, so much that my 13-year-old leaned to me and said “ew, I do not like this character!”

In the end, the real star was Naylor as Judy. The character development of this role is always important. Judy comes to work because her husband has left her for someone else, and she has never worked outside the home before. She has a lack of confidence and feels like she has a lack of skills. We could argue about the frustration that this brings about the overlooking of unpaid labor, but that’s another story, nevermind. As Judy’s friendship grows, her confidence grows, which leads to the show’s 11 o’clock number, Get Out and Stay Out. In full confession, I have never sat through a production of 9 to 5 and not cried at this number because if you know, you know. However, when the director (Thank you, Madsen) has taken the care and understanding to cast someone of the right age, experience, and other elements to have truly related to this role, the meaning hits harder. Naylor sang that song in a way that I had not seen before. In one moment, the staging had her wrap herself in a blanket and sit in a chair as she comfortably ponders her dreams, and then she stands up and power belts the end of the song. When a person has been walked over in a relationship, and then suddenly finds that power and peace, it is a feeling that cannot be described. It cannot be described, but it can be sung. And Naylor sang it.

9 to 5 is a fun and nostalgic show for any fan of the movie, and it is also a powerful show about respect and strength. Seeing it at the Hopebox with the community feel gives it the power it deserves.

9 to 5 plays various days at 7:30 through March 9th, with some Saturday matinees at 2pm at the Hopebox Theatre, 1700 S Frontage Road, Kaysville, Utah 84037. Tickets are $16-22. For more information see https://www.hopeboxtheatre.com/