Tuesday, March 15, 2011

*9 to 5: The Musical* preview

For Thursday's print version in The Inlander, this article got cut, and then cut again. (This is a tragedy: Bobo's prose is deathless.) Therefore, if you want to read all about Dee Hoty's emulation of Lily Tomlin; her real-life encounters with sexist sleazeballs; what her pre-show routine is like; and a bit about the musical's songs ... here ya go.

If you’re performing in the musical version of a movie that everybody knows, and you’re playing a part identified with a particular actress, then here’s how to pay her homage: Rip her off. But be nice about it.
In the national tour of 9 to 5 (March 24-27 at the INB Center), Dee Hoty is playing the Lily Tomlin role of Violet, the office veteran who mentors two co-workers in their shared struggle against their sexist jerk of a boss.
“Steal from the best,” Hoty says. (That's her in the photo in 2008, when she played Mame at the 5th Street in Seattle.) “If it’s a great idea, you should have it for yourself.” What Hoty found fascinating about Lily Tomlin’s performance in the 1980 movie “was her stillness. It’s a real lesson in how less is more. Just let the words do the work — you don’t have to do all these big gesticulations.”
Late in the first act, for example, when the three women are fearful that they’ve acted out Violet’s fantasy and actually poisoned Mr. Hart’s coffee, everybody runs off seeking medical help. “In the hospital scene, when everyone is going berserk and totally losing it, I’m very controlled in the way [director] Jeff [Calhoun] has redone the show,” Hoty says.
“’You gotta know what to do,/ You gotta do it in a hurry … slam the phone, open the door’ — there’s a whole dance for the ensemble there, but in the middle of it all is my tutorial with Judy. I try to be the calm in the storm.”

Hoty’s wily veteran is joined by Judy the newbie (Mamie Parris) and Doralee the hubba-hubba blonde (Diana DeGarmo, the American Idol runner-up in 2004, the year of Jennifer Hudson and William Hung).
The kind of sexism the characters face isn’t just a relic of the ‘80s — Hoty has faced it herself. “One time,” she recalls, “I had a film audition for a kind of courtesan-y girl in the Old West, one of those dance hall girls. And this was with a famous director and a famous casting director, who will remain nameless. So we went into the room to read, and the casting director began to snuggle up to me. In the moment, I figured that’s what the part called for. I didn’t feel threatened, I just played along — that’s just who this girl is, I thought. Well, he started reaching toward somewhere he shouldn’t … and then he stopped himself.
“I haven’t had a lot of those ‘Hey, baby, I’ll make it worth your while …’  moments,” Hoty says, using her most gravelly voice. “Honestly? I’m a woman of a certain age. Nobody’s making passes at me now. It’s not like I’m 24.”
But that’s OK. “I don’t have a giant ego, because that won’t get you very far in this business,” Hoty says. “I mean, when I roll out of bed in the morning, I’m not thinking of myself as ‘three-time Tony nominee Dee Hoty.’”
She’s thinking of herself as a working actor who’s got a job. (She's already working with her agent to set up a part in a play this August, since the 9 to 5 tour ends in July.)

Ah, yes, life on the road. For an actress in a musical about the routine of office work, what’s the daily routine like?
Hoty — who travels with her three-legged Pomeranian — spends a lot of time describing her routine with Sophie the dog.
Before shows, she says, “I vocalize in the shower. Then I do a little mini-workout — I call it a 'hotel workout' — with those stretchy bands. Then, one hour before the show, I get to the theater and get into my ‘smalls’ [i.e., underwear]. I start my makeup, and I have a ‘hair call’ for the wig lady at half-hour. We do the pin curls and she puts on my wig. I finish my makeup, do some itty-bitty vocalizing — just to make sure it’s all there — and then I have a dresser who comes by to help — make sure I’m wearing my watch and have my wedding ring, since those are both important to the plot.
"I’m rarely offstage in the show, so I set my cap for that. When the curtain comes down, we move in reverse: I give everything to my dresser, but I  re-do some things for her, like replacing my clothes that need to be on the deck for my quick changes. Then I get back down to my skin, clothes go to the laundry, and we’re ready to do another show.
"On a two-show day, I’ll keep some of my prep on — the pin curls, my makeup. I’ve fond this fabulous new makeup that doesn’t slide down your neck by 9 o’clock! 
"And I have a variety of hats, so I don’t look like one of those Broadway chorines sitting in a diner with her baseball cap on.”  

In the show, Hoty gets to sing about that kind of routine. There’s the title tune, of course. (All the songs in the musical, including the lyrics, are by Dolly Parton.) There’s a song for Violet’s introduction to Judy about office life. There are songs for each of the three women’s revenge fantasies against their boss. There’s a song when they realize that they’re confronted by the boss’s right-hand woman, a song when they triumph, and songs for when they rid themselves of useless men and start to realize their own potential.
Because 9 to 5 isn't just a chick show. It's chick-empowering show ... with music.

9 to 5: The Musical • Thurs, March 24, at 7:30 pm; Fri, March 25, at 8 pm; Sat, March 26, at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sun, March 27, at 1 pm and 6:30 pm • $37-$70 • INB Center • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • bestofbroadwayspokane.com • (800) 325-SEAT

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