What a Way to Make a Living! Nine to Five Musical Being Developed by Parton and Resnick

News   What a Way to Make a Living! Nine to Five Musical Being Developed by Parton and Resnick The secretaries who were "just a step on the boss man's ladder" in the 1980 film comedy "Nine to Five" will sing in a stage musical version of the story, with a new score by Dolly Parton.
Dolly Parton in
Dolly Parton in "Nine to Five," her film debut.

Patricia Resnick, who had story and co-screenwriter credit on the hit picture, told Playbill.com that she is writing the libretto of the Broadway-aimed Nine to Five musical, with music and lyrics by Parton (who co-starred in the movie), to be produced by Robert Greenblatt, president of entertainment at Showtime Networks, Inc.

A Broadway target of fall 2006 or early 2007 is being eyed, and Broadway's hit-making director Joe Mantello (Take Me Out, Wicked) has been in discussions to stage the project, Resnick said.

Nine to Five is still in the development stages, with no official announcements made public by the producer.

Country and pop music legend Parton would not star in the stage show, but would pen an all-original score (save for her hit Oscar-nominated title number) for what Resnick said would be a large-cast show of perhaps 25 actors.

"We have a draft, we have songs," Resnick told Playbill.com. "At the moment, we're looking at either fall 2006 or spring 2007. We don't have a workshop yet. We're just at the point of getting ready to have the songs put into a framework for actors to be able to learn them, so that we can do a workshop." Given the film's broad commercial strokes and the clear "wants" of its three main characters (played on film by Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda), it's almost a surprise a plan for Nine to Five, the Musical didn't emerge sooner.

"It's something that's been kicking around for years and years," Resnick said of the musical version. "Over the years various people have approached me about trying to do a musical version. Almost two years ago Bob Greenblatt approached me about it. It finally seemed to be 'right person, right time' — we were able to get Dolly involved and Bob and I started moving forward with it."

In the movie, the trio of office secretaries want to get ahead, punish a bullying, sexist boss (played by Dabney Coleman) and overcome the treachery of the boss' office mole, Roz. Fantasy sequences punctuate the comedy, which earned Resnick and co-screenwriter Colin Higgins (who directed) a 1981 nomination for a Writers Guild of America Award in the category of Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

Resnick said the transition to the stage has been smooth; she hasn't had to dismantle what worked about the story.

"We've tried to keep the things that are near and dear to people," Resnick said, "but we've tried to definitely see it as its own creature. We're setting it in 1980. We do derive some humor from the things that, in 1980, people are looking forward to, which are sort of mixed blessings — like all of the technology that we have now. This is before cell phones, no faxes, computers were not used the way they are now."

Is this a project for three above-the-title mega-stars?

"We haven't decided yet if we want to have big names, or great Broadway actresses; we're not quite to that point yet," Resnick said.

The characters will include three secretaries, Judy, Violet and Doralee, Mr. Hart (the boss), Roz (the office spy) and "a couple of other male parts that were in the movie," which have been beefed up for the stage. An ensemble will be part of the musical. In addition, "we did add some romance" to the plot, Resnick said.

The librettist's screen credits include the Mandy Patinkin-Glenn Close picture, "Maxie"; the TV movies "Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay," "Jenifer," "Grandpa's Funeral," "The Price of a Broken Heart," "Sex, Lies & Obsession," "The Expendables"; the features "Straight Talk" (co-written with Craig Bolotin) starring Dolly Parton, "Second Sight" (co-written with Tom Schulman) and Robert Altman's "A Wedding" (for which Resnick shared screenplay credit).

Resnick also wrote a teleplay for PBS in 1979 called "Ladies in Waiting," which she later adapted for the musical stage (with Alan Poul and Jonathan Sheffer). It was presented in Woodstock, IL, in summer stock, she said, and then moved to the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. The show remains a licensable property that "never quite made it to Broadway, but it's around."

How did the original "Nine to Five" (sometimes written as "9 to 5") film come about?

"Jane Fonda wanted to make a political statement about clerical workers and secretaries, and she wanted to work with Lily and Dolly — I actually read about it in the trades," Resnick explained. "At the time, we were both with William Morris, and there was no writer attached. Lily gave me my first job. I wrote for her first Broadway show, Appearing Nitely. I had done a couple of sketches for Dolly for a Cher special, so I had somewhat of a relationship with both of them. I asked that Jane read some of my work and consider me, which she did. She explained to me what she wanted to say — she wanted to work with Lily and Dolly, and she did want it couched in terms of a comedy. She thought political statements are more palatable using comedy. I came up with the story. We then took it to 20th Century Fox."

Underneath the comedy, the movie was about the smart, industrious but invisible women behind the power structure of corporate America. "That's changed a little, but not as much as you would have thought in the 25 years since the movie came out," Resnick said.

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