Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Andy Karl
Andy Karl's role in the new Broadway musical 9 to 5 is unique in the universe of the show.
Andy Karl
Andy Karl

Not only does he get to sing a Dolly Parton song that is new to the world, having been specifically written for the musical, but, unlike much of the rest of the cast — which includes Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty, and Marc Kudisch — he is creating a role that wasn't in the 1980 film "9 to 5." As Joe, Janney's love interest, he can put his full stamp on a part without worry of the influence of the popular movie. Broadway and Off-Broadway veteran Karl talked to about Parton, Janney and Orfeh, a frequent co-star who also happens to be his wife. You play Joe, a character who wasn't in the film.
Andy Karl: Correct. They knew they wanted to create a love interest for Violet, who is played by Allison Janney. I came along last year in their last reading. There was this part of Joe that they wanted to do something with. They couldn't pinpoint it. I did a reading. It was interesting that there was a May-December romance, and there was a nice guy in the office. The show is really about women's rights, and they wanted to make sure that they didn't just bash men. So you're the nice guy in the story.
AK: Yeah, I'm the nice guy. I'm also heavily interested in Violet. That also gives Violet's role a well-roundedness. We get a little bit more of her history when she opens up to me. She's the senior office manager and the boss' right-hand person. She's the smart go-getter.

Marc Kudisch with Andy Karl in 9 to 5
photo by Craig Schwartz Is most of your stage time with Janney?
AK: Yes. I have a few good scenes and most of them are just trying to get her out on a date! It's the old story. Boy Meets Girl, Girl Likes Boy but won't go out with boy until they open up to each other. Do you guys get a song?
AK: Yeah. I have a great song that Dolly wrote. I'm going to say she wrote it for me, but she wrote it for the show. (Laughs) It's called "Let Love Grow." It's really a pretty, pretty song. I have a great time singing it. It's a simple, beautiful song about opening up your heart to love, and Dolly has a knack for those kind of songs that break your heart. Even when I'm singing them, I get a little teary-eyed. Is this the first role in a new musical that you've originated on Broadway?
AK: Unless you count Kyle the UPS guy in Legally Blonde. We can count him. You were in that show with your wife, Orfeh. Acting on stage with your real-life partner can be tricky. How was that?
AK: We had a blast. That show was our fifth show together. We met on Broadway in Saturday Night Fever years ago. It's been magic ever since. We have a great time working together. And in Legally Blonde, we were love interests in the show — it was the easiest job I ever had.

Orfeh and Andy Karl
photo by Aubrey Reuben Saturday Night Fever had a rough tenure on Broadway. It was not loved by the critics. What are your memories of the show now, looking back?
AK: We had a great time, because that's where we met. I've got to tell you, I think that show deserves so much more credit than it got. The choreography was fantastic in that show. It was some of the hardest choreography I've ever done. I had a blast. It was like going to a disco every night. What could be so bad about that? I understudied the lead and went on quite a few times, doing a John Travolta impersonation. You were in the original Luke in the cast of Altar Boyz. Were you surprised by the success of that show Off-Broadway?
AK: We knew we had something good. It became a sort of litmus test for young men who come to New York and want to get a job. They wanted to do Altar Boyz; that's the show they wanted to do. I'd meet them every now and again. Actually, the last Luke in Altar Boyz just joined 9 to 5. He's 21, which is literally eight years younger than when I started Altar Boyz! Here's a trivia question. Orfeh goes by one name on stage, but, legally, is her name Orfeh Karl?
AK: She didn't even take my last name! She wanted to keep it strictly Orfeh. Orfeh all the way. There is only one Orfeh. I'll let her have it.

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