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'9 to 5' one for the ages -- even in Willmar: Musical on Barn stage through Feb. 26

Briana Sanchez / Tribune "9 to 5: The Musical" runs through Feb. 26 at The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar.1 / 2
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Vocalists for The Barn Theatre's production of "9 to 5: The Musical" rehearse a scene. A live band and singers perform music throughout the show.2 / 2

More than 35 years ago, the musical, "9 to 5" was written and produced. One would think that this blockbuster hit wouldn't have a parallel to a small town like Willmar, but the women that were a part of the Willmar 8 brought these issues to light in our hometown.

The Barn Theatre has taken on a musical dealing with sexism and equality, disguised as a comedy. When you come to the theater, take time to peruse the accompanying exhibit that remembers the Willmar 8 and the revolution that they were.

Upon entering the theater, the first thing noticed is the sparseness of the set. Once the show gets rolling, the audience realizes that the set is sparse to set off the idea that women in the workplace were accoutrement, decoration, yet these same decorations had big aspirations.

During the course of the show, these women make their dreams come true, all while working 9 to 5.

The three leading "gals" are a force to be reckoned with. Barn veteran, Nicki Dyson's driven Violet is perfectly robed in "Dynasty"-esque shoulder pads and power suits, while Sherry Wright's spunky Doralee is clad in tight attire that has everyone crying floozy! Lastly, Claudia Finsaas's Judy is the perfect woman of the '80s, in a stylish suit dress and hat, not quite sure where she belongs.

Each gal has a moment of hilarity, but also a seriousness about the lack of equality in the workplace. These three women come together in a powerhouse performance of both earnestness and histrionics that turn the boy's club of the 1980's office on its ear.

Bill Bannon's sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigoted character, Franklin Hart, causes the audience to recoil with aversion during his unwanted advances, but also to laugh at his complete inability to see the value of the women surrounding him in his office. Hart is truly heartless as he sees these women as "getters of coffee" and "makers of copies," not as the equals they truly are.

His trusty informer, Kayla Rekieta's Rosalyn, is deceptive and conniving. Her song "Heart to Hart" displays her ardent devotion to Franklin Hart's power. She shines in her quest to take down the "girls" and keep the status quo for Hart and his company.

Ben Watson once again takes the stage, this time as Violet's love interest and junior accountant, Joe. He brings an earnestness to his role and his disregard for Violet's notion that their age difference should keep them apart. This younger man helps the office girls realize their evolution to independence and confidence. He doesn't take the lead and overpower them, he truly supports them, a perfect foil to Franklin Hart's character.

As the ensemble and other supporting cast members come on and off the stage, it is clear that they have grown to rely on one another to create a show that could be seen as uncomfortable because of the overt sexual advances by a man with power, and the complete objectification of women.

While the show has purposefully placed uncomfortable moments in the beginning between Doralee and Hart, as the show plays on, it is impossible to miss the fun being poked at an institution of thought that is no longer viable. Once again, The Barn has taken a Hollywood blockbuster and made the connection to our own community.

The production runs through Feb. 26 at The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar.