North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre has created a niche through clever staging of large-scale musicals (“Carrie,” “Xanadu,” “Rent”) despite its small space. Its latest production, “9 to 5,” is a little rough around the edges and the material is not particularly strong, but the show ultimately wins you over with its boisterous energy and sheer determination to entertain.
The 2009 Broadway musical closely follows the popular 1980 film about a sexist boss and three revenge-seeking secretaries. Dolly Parton’s pleasant but bland songs, except for the toe-tapping title number, add little not already established in the dialogue. Still, all the film’s hilarious moments are there, getting strong laughs from the fine comic timing director James Ilsley elicits from the cast.
Parton’s playing of lovable smart blonde Doralee in the film makes it difficult imaging someone else in the part. A.C. Donohue doesn’t attempt anything different, skillfully channeling Parton’s twang and charm without merely copying, her vocals especially engaging.
Mary Beth Hollmann confidently lands her zingers as the long-suffering head secretary, Violet, while allowing the tender heart underneath to come through. She’s especially moving in the lovely duet, “Let Love Grow,” sung with budding boyfriend Joe (earnestly endearing David Kerman).
As the new secretary, Judy, Mary Reilly has weaker material to work with but shines in the second act with Judy’s newfound assertiveness. Reilly’s powerful singing of “Get Out and Stay Out” garners the show’s strongest applause.
In the musical, company boss Franklin Hart, Jr., is even more crass than in the film, but Bill Andrews attacks the part with gusto, making Hart all the more easily despised. Natalie Turgeon likewise goes all out in portraying Hart’s love-struck secretary Roz, wringing hilarity from the stereotype.
The script’s awkward, short segments, mimicking film cuts, make for bustling, cramped scene changes that disrupt the flow. The recorded musical accompaniment sometimes dominates the singers, although the voices can also be too loud coming through the face microphones.
The show is raunchier than the film, with cruder sexual references (often mirrored in Ilsley’s choreography). But those who take these in stride for the big payoff, when everyone gets their just rewards, should leave the theater smiling and humming the title tune.
If you go
What: “9 to 5,” the musical by Dolly Parton
Where: North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. July 16-18 and 23-25; 3 p.m. July 19 & 26
Info: 919-866-0228 or nract.org