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STAGES St. Louis’ production of '9 to 5: The Musical' brings the '80s classic into a new era

Summerisa Bell Stevens  and Laura Taylor play Doralee Rhodes and Judy Bernly, respectively, in Stages St. Louis' production of "9 to 5: The Musical."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Summerisa Bell Stevens and Laura Taylor play Doralee Rhodes and Judy Bernly, respectively, in Stages St. Louis' production of "9 to 5: The Musical."

It has been 37 years since the classic comedy “9 to 5” hit the big screen, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as three working women fantasizing (and living out!) dreams of overthrowing their sexist boss. The film is the 20th highest-grossing comedy film and, in 2009, it was turned into a successful Broadway musical.

“9 to 5: The Musical” premieres Friday night at STAGES St. Louis and runs through Aug. 20.

Two of the headlining actresses, Summerisa Bell Stevens (who plays Doralee Rhodes, Dolly Parton’s character) and Laura Taylor (who plays Judy Bernly, Jane Fonda’s character) joined St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter to discuss bringing the '80s classic into a new era.

Taylor, who has performed with STAGES for four seasons, watched the film closely as a young woman and found it empowering, but decided to stay away from the film as she prepared for her role, hoping to find new connections to life in the 2000s.

“What stood out for me was seeing women in power,” Taylor said. “As a young girl, it was a beautiful story to have those role models making change for themselves.”

Stevens, on the other hand, never saw the film growing up and carefully studied how Dolly Parton played the role in preparation for this production.

“The role was written for Dolly Parton,” Stevens said. “A lot of the background is actually Dolly Parton’s history. A lot of her charm, wit and kindness are in this role. When people come to see this, they expect that. I’ve been working a lot on the Dolly Parton accent.”

Even though women have made significant strides in the workplace since the 1980s, both Stevens and Taylor agree that as much as things change, some things stay the same and there are lessons to be learned about underestimating women.

“Throughout my life I’ve felt there are times it is hard to be a strong woman who also enjoys being a woman, dressing up, wearing heels,” Stevens said. “I can relate to [Doralee] on many levels. Sometimes I’m judged or labeled by my appearance. It has been so wonderful to tackle a role to be a strong woman and be where you are.”

Audience members can expect to see a musical that stays pretty faithful to the original movie – Parton and the original screenplay writers brought the musical adaptation to fruition, after all.

“There’s definitely an element of fantasy, humor and warmth and an element of getting it done. There’s a tinge of revenge,” said Taylor

“But it’s all in good fun,” Stevens said.

If You Go

What: STAGES St. Louis Presents "9 to 5, The Musical"
When: July 21 - Aug. 20
Where: Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.