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‘9 to 5’ clocks in on Youngstown Playhouse stage

Submitted photo / Wayne Bonner III Kath Steeb plays Doralee in Youngstown Playhouse’s production of the musical “9 to 5.”

Connor Bezeredi has a lot of firsts where the musical “9 to 5” is concerned.

It was Bezeredi’s first Broadway musical, seeing it in New York at age 16. Bezeredi was the first person in the theater for that performance and may have been the first person to buy the cast recording (it went on sale the day of the performance).

The Dolly Parton-Patricia Resnick musical now will be his first directing effort at Youngstown Playhouse.

“I jumped at the chance to do it,” Bezeredi said.

“9 to 5” is based on the 1980 film of the same name about three female office workers struggling with the demands — and sexual advances — of their misogynistic, egotistical boss.

The movie, which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman, was a box-office hit, earning more than $100 million in theaters. It launched Parton’s acting career and the movie’s title song gave Parton her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

The stage version didn’t enjoy the same success. Bezeredi is part of a select group that saw it on Broadway, where it ran for less than 150 performances in 2009.

But just like Parton, who has risen to icon status in recent years, the “9 to 5” musical seems to be enjoying a resurgence and has become a popular title with community and regional theaters.

“For a show set in 1979, it’s just ahead of its time, I think,” Bezeredi said. “I remember looking around in the crowd and seeing people who were obviously New York consistent show seers, and I saw them having a hard time digesting it. I think New York audiences were just a little snooty about it when it first premiered because it was more of a fun romp than this intense, heady and intellectual show.”

At the same time, it deals with workplace issues that still exist and have gotten increasing attention with the #MeToo movement.

“The disparity of men and women in the workplace, we’ve got bosses creating that old boys club feel that still very much exists to this day,” Bezeredi said. “Some people hide it better than one of the characters in this show, but we’re still fighting for these rights. Women are still trying to be perceived as the equal that they are.”

Bezeredi has directed a couple of shows at Salem High School and did “Speech and Debate” at Youngstown State University in 2019. Those were all smaller shows than “9 to 5.”

“For all the fun, excitement and joy that it brings when it’s happening, it’s a machine. That’s something I didn’t count on when I signed on. I’m a younger director and most of my experience is with straight plays, and I wasn’t ready for how mechanical the process would be, and with that I’ve learned a lot of things, which has been really exciting.

“At the same time, the amount of time that I’m able to do what I’m truly good at, which is acting coaching and working with actors and helping them understand their character arc, that has really been minimized because everything is a cog in the machine when it comes to a musical, especially when it is a musical based on a movie. They expect so many scenes and so many transitions, and they occur within the songs and everything has to work exactly right or it’s not telling the story how we need to tell it.”

Bezeredi credited stage manager Caitlyn N. Santiago and technical director Johnny Pecano for their help with that process.

The cast features Jackie Collins, Kath Steeb, Hannah Sinclair, Kage Coven, Sarah Whitlach, Edward Bazzell, David Leach, Louis Weiss, Joanna Andrei, Caitlyn N. Santiago, Jaye Mills, Carolyn Colley, Sierra Ellis Dave Wolford, Allyson Kremm, Alyssa Moore, Ashley Milligan Smith, Darcie Lukiart, Elizabeth Huff, Kathryn Stanton, Nikita Jones, Sarah Robles, Savanna Wade, Sydney Campbell, Eric McCrea and Frank Carsone with Jones, Ellis, Campbell, Dominick and Eden Lesnansky as understudies.

While most theatergoers, even those seeing the musical for the first time, will be familiar with its title song, it’s not the only musical highlight.

“My personal favorite comes early on,” Bezeredi said. “‘I Just Might’ is sort of the moment where we see all the women in the office realizing, though things are not ideal, they can have hope a better future will come.

“It’s typically staged with only the three leading women visible on stage and everyone else sings off stage, but in our production we’ve worked in a moment where you get to see all of the women working in the office for that universal feeling we all go through at work, that idea that we hope for better, push for better and lean on each other to get there.”

The staging of that number reflects an attitude Bezeredi tried to bring to the entire production.

“I feel that in a lot of productions I’ve seen, the main three are sort of spotlighted, and of course they should be, but it starts to feel sometimes our more secondary character are afterthoughts, and I want to create a sense of relationships between people, because that’s what get you through work. That’s something I’m very proud of, and I feel that’s something that rings true because everyone is a part of the story. It’s not just about the leads.”

If you go …

WHAT: The musical “9 to 5”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday through June 16

WHERE: Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane, Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $17 to $27 and are available online at

experienceyourarts.org and by calling 330-788-8739.

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