DECATUR -- What is it like to have a boss who is a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot?
This question doesn’t just apply to current stories in the media. It is the basis of the 1980 movie “9 to 5.” The Millikin University cast will be on stage Nov. 9 through 12 in Albert Taylor Theatre for “9 to 5: The Musical.”
The story follows three female co-workers as they scheme to get rid of their chauvinistic boss. Patricia Resnick wrote the script for the musical and the movie. The music was written by country music artist Dolly Parton, who was also one of the actors in the movie nearly 40 years ago.
The Millikin show has approximately 20 song and dance numbers incorporating a cast of 25 actors. Although choreographer Anna Corvera was inspired by the dances popular in 1979, she uses influences of other dances to tell the story. Corvera was given full creative license to design the choreography.
“We are handed and script and a score,” she said. “As far as dance, we are not handed anything.”
The script stays as true to the original movie as possible. “But there are one or two nods to the 21st century,” said musical director Kevin Long.
Shelby Barros, who plays Violet, one of the main characters, believes they are making the story more applicable to 2017, even though it is set in 1979.
“It is a very apparent and important play,” she said. “Women are still not making the same amount has men. Women are still be oppressed in many different ways. With the fun of the music, the play kind of brings it to light.”
Millikin directors have been developing their version of “9 to 5” for nearly a year, before many of the current headlines featured alleged assaults by prominent male authority.
“The work that we are doing might be set in 1979, but the audience is viewing it in 2017,” said director Tom Robson. “What does it mean for an audience to watch a play about workplace sexual harassment, to watch a play about not feeling like they are being listened to by their bosses? What is it like for a woman to be silenced?”
Directors keep the humor of the play. “It’s fun, but it has a point of view,” Robson said. “It had a point of view in 1980 when the movie came out and in 2008 when the Broadway production came out.”
Hope Klessig, who plays Doralee, believes the goal for the cast is to tell the story and the seriousness, but with the comedic tones and lines. “People can still see the truth in it,” Klessig said.
“It’s iconic, but there’s a lot of heart in it,” said Hannah Williams, who plays Judy. “We are trying to find the treat underneath it.”
More than a year ago, Robson was studying scripts for upcoming productions. He thought “9 to 5” was a fun period play. He soon decided the story was current. “This is where we are,” he said. “It’s a world that isn’t nearly as different as we think it is.”
According to Robson, Millikin has large group of talented females in the School of Theater and Dance. “To tell a story about strong women has been fun,” he said. “Women are often sidelined or they are there as arm candy for the man.”
The actors are preparing to graduate from Millikin, taking what they’ve learned from the school, life lessons and “9 to 5.”
What will they do differently than other women in their field?
“Never be silent,” Barros said.
The women in the play go through changes and find friendships along the way, something the actors find necessary not only for their careers but for themselves. “They find a community of women to back them up,” Klessig said.
“There is so much strength within yourself that you don’t realize is there,” Williams said.