Photo by Ryan C. Loyd, Rylo Media Design

This production is scheduled June 7-30, 2024.

The audience was certainly satisfied on opening night of 9 to 5—The Musical at SLO REP when the stereotypical “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a 1980s-era boss gets his comeuppance at the hands of his employees.

It’s all in fun (if not outright fantasy) of course, as the story filled with righteous indignation, dreams of equity and revenge, and the satisfaction of retribution is set to catchy tunes and showbiz choreography, with a deus ex machina ending that puts all to rights.

It’s a two-and-a-half-hour-with-one-intermission experience that sends us home humming Dolly Parton’s memorable title tune, “Working 9 to 5—what a way to make a living,” in awe that once again SLO REP has put together an impressive show that by all measures should be playing in a much larger venue than its aging 97-seat black box theatre.

Director Suzy Newman has assembled a flawless cast supported by an outstanding production team that makes putting on such a demanding show look easy. The amazing Dave Linfield has designed what looks like a simple set from inventive puzzle pieces that move and morph as needed. Complicated scene changes and cues happen seamlessly, no doubt thanks to meticulous stage management by Gigi Bjork-Nelson and assistants Bree Fawcett, Alex Miller, and Katie Karleskint.

Attention to detail is a hallmark of the show. References both spoken (Atari) and unspoken (rolodexes, a pet rock) will either send you back in time or go over your head, depending on your stage of life.

Credit Renee Van Niel with costumes so ‘80s you’ll wince if you are old enough to remember outfits from the second half of the 20th century (one audience member was overheard saying that back in the day she had a candy striper outfit just like the one in a hospital scene). The requisite disco ball is just one element of the complex lighting design by Kevin Harris, whose careful work appropriately illuminates dream sequences and corporate offices alike.

Ensemble members Robert Frederick Taylor, Jesse Graham, Josiah Mayer, Sierra Anastasi, and Lottie Arnold merrily play, sing, and dance a variety of roles . . .”

Music director Marshall Keating and choreographer Natalie Mara—along with dance captain Jesse Graham—clearly managed to bring the best out of both lead and ensemble performers. With no apparent missteps or missed cues, opening night resembled the work of cast members who already have weeks of performances under their belts. Credit also to fight captain Kamilah Lay for bringing some veracity—and comedy—to the show’s physical altercations.

Lay also plays the iconic Dolly Parton role of Doralee, and she’s simply great. Katie Worley-Beck, who can cry while gushing “I will not cry” with the best of them, and Kerry DiMaggio, who does sarcastic better than anyone, match Lay in talent and confidence. The trio takes center stage to, at first, only dream about putting an end to their horrible, handsy, conniving supervisor—the handsome Tim Stewart, who plays smarmy so well you believe he’s enjoying himself way too much in the role. In fact, the whole cast seems to be having a swell time.

Ensemble members Robert Frederick Taylor, Jesse Graham, Josiah Mayer, Sierra Anastasi, and Lottie Arnold merrily play, sing, and dance a variety of roles, with Arnold standing out for her comedy chops and Graham for his empathetic portrayal of a fellow office worker who joins DiMaggio in the sweet ballad “Let Love Grow.”

Casiena Raether, playing the boss’s obsequious assistant, gets her own musical interlude in the first act, and while it isn’t necessarily a memorable tune, it’s a doozy of a production number. “Heart to Hart,” in which she melodramatically confesses her undying affection for him, exemplifies the hard work and the joie de vivre put into this show in every aspect: vocals, choreography, costuming, lighting, and bringing it all together, the directing.

Newman continues to prove herself one talented director who knows how to put on one sensational show.

:: Charlotte Alexander

Editor’s Note: 9 to 5—The Musical contains some cringe-worthy moments of sexual references, harassment, and assault that may make some uncomfortable.