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Dolly Parton, Working '9 To 5' To Get To Broadway

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Dolly Parton, Working '9 To 5' To Get To Broadway

Performing Arts

Dolly Parton, Working '9 To 5' To Get To Broadway

Dolly Parton, Working '9 To 5' To Get To Broadway

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Country music legend Dolly Parton helped make a comedy smash of the 1980 film 9 to 5. Now she's written the music and lyrics for a Broadway version — with more than 20 new songs. Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging hide caption

toggle caption Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Country music legend Dolly Parton helped make a comedy smash of the 1980 film 9 to 5. Now she's written the music and lyrics for a Broadway version — with more than 20 new songs.

Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Rising Broadway talent Marc Kudisch plays the Dabney Coleman role of bad-guy boss Franklin M. Hart — the one the office women gang up on when he goes too far. That's Megan Hilty giving him his comeuppance as Doralee, the role Parton originally played. Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging hide caption

toggle caption Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Rising Broadway talent Marc Kudisch plays the Dabney Coleman role of bad-guy boss Franklin M. Hart — the one the office women gang up on when he goes too far. That's Megan Hilty giving him his comeuppance as Doralee, the role Parton originally played.

Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Allison Janney stars as Violet Newstead, the no-nonsense office manager played by Lily Tomlin in the original. Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging hide caption

toggle caption Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Allison Janney stars as Violet Newstead, the no-nonsense office manager played by Lily Tomlin in the original.

Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

More From Dolly Parton

On 'The Countriest Song In The Whole Musical'

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On Writing Songs For Mean Mr. Hart

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On Changes, If Any, In The Workplace

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Web-Only Interview Extras

More from star Allison Janney and book writer Patricia Resnick:

Resnick On Film Vs. Musical-Theater Writing

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Resnick On Why No One Cries 'Sexual Harassment' in '9 to 5'

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Janney On Moon Pies, 'Goo Goo Claws' And Dolly's Posse

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Over the past decade or so, Broadway has raided Hollywood to find material for new musicals. Some have become enormous hits, like The Producers and Hairspray. Some have vanished without a trace — witness Urban Cowboy and Saturday Night Fever.

And now there's 9 to 5: The Musical. It's Broadway bound, and its out-of-town tryout opens tonight in Los Angeles — and it's got a not-so-secret weapon going for it. The songs are by country superstar Dolly Parton, who starred in the smash-hit 1980 movie — and was the writer-performer of the film's title song.

Which was also a smash hit.

The comedy, about three secretaries who take elaborate revenge on their sexist boss, has become a perennial on cable TV and something of a cultural touchstone, too. Five years ago, producer Robert Greenblatt decided he wanted to put the story on stage.

"It just struck me that that could make a good musical, primarily because it has this musical signature," Greenblatt says. "You know, the theme song, which is so identified with the movie. And I thought, if we could take that feeling and translate it to other moments in the show and other characters, then it might turn into a musical."

Greenblatt enlisted the writer of the movie's screenplay, Patricia Resnick, to work on the show. Together, the two of them flew to Nashville to ask Parton if she'd like to write the score.

"And I jumped at the chance," Parton says. "I said, 'I've never done a musical. I don't know that much about Broadway.'"

Oh, the country star has seen the occasional Broadway tuner, and she's watched a few movie musicals, she says. But she didn't let that stand in the way.

"I said, 'But I'll give it a try,'" Parton says. "I said, 'I will not be offended, though, if it don't turn out, because it's new to me.' So I said, 'Don't feel bad if it don't work — and I won't either.' ... But I will give it a whirl."

A whirl is exactly what she gave it. Parton retreated to her lake house and began to write songs — a couple of dozen in a couple of weeks, says Resnick.

"She did that first run of songs, which were a lot," the script writer says. "I mean, we got this CD with all these songs on it, and I stuck it in the car CD player, and my kids in two minutes were immediately singing half of them. So I know we were in good shape."

Now the show is on the stage of the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, in a multi-million dollar production starring The West Wing's Allison Janney. It's set to open in New York this spring.

The Goal: Expand The Story, But Don't Stray Too Far

Producer Robert Greenblatt says the 9 to 5 creative team had to tread a fine line. The musical needed to be its own creation, but it also needed to satisfy audiences who know every single word of the movie.

"There are several iconic lines in the screenplay that we feel the audience waiting for and applauding," Greenblatt says. "So we wanted to make sure all those [moments] were there."

One such: When country girl Doralee tells that malicious boss he's gone a touch too far. "I've got a gun out there in my purse and up 'til now I've been forgiving and forgetting, 'cuz that was the way I was brought up," she warns him. "But I swear, you say one more word about me and I'll get that gun of mine and I'll change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot."

On the other hand, Greenblatt says, "we've made a lot of changes."

"And at the end of the day, I think people will look at it and go, 'Oh, that's really close to the movie,' which I think is the goal," he says.

In the full-length audio version of this story:
How the new Doralee feels about rehearsing Dolly Parton's old role with the star watching, and how Parton surprised even herself as she got inside the heads of the other female characters. Plus: Allison Janney on Parton's reaction when technical glitches stopped the show one night — in front of a paying audience.

Click the red 'Listen' button at the top of the page.

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