'9 to 5 Live!' classic film comes to the Oasis stage

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday January 9, 2024
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Vanilla Meringue, Jota Mercury, Coco Buttah and Jubilee in '9 to 5 Live' (photo: Sloane Kanter)
Vanilla Meringue, Jota Mercury, Coco Buttah and Jubilee in '9 to 5 Live' (photo: Sloane Kanter)

From January 11 to February 3 the classic 1980 film "9 to 5" will make its debut on the Oasis stage. In true Oasis fashion, "9 to 5 Live!" will offer a drag take on the film that originally starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. The show promises to offer updated humor, modern commentary, and the outrageously fabulous style of drag theater that is unique to San Francisco.

The original film, a huge hit in its day, told the hilariously thought-provoking tale about three women office workers (Fonda, Tomlin, Parton) who deal with sexism, sexual harassment, less than equal pay, and a boss who takes credit for the work they do as part of their normal workday. They get their revenge in a most unusual way that involves kidnapping their boss (Dabney Coleman) and holding him hostage.

A lot has changed in the corporate world since "9 to 5" was released in 1980, what with the rise of remote work, the Me Too movement making it harder for male bosses to get away with sexually harassing female employees, massive layoffs and a national surge in union support.

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Elsa Touche, who is the director of "9 to 5 Live!", and Joe Wadlington, who wrote the script (abridged from the screenplay by Patricia Resmick and the late Colin Higgins, who also directed the film), talked about how many of these issues found their way into the show.

"The current state of office work is actually the driving force behind producing this play now," said Wadlington. "With the great resignation, followed by strikes and layoffs all around the country, workplace equity is on everyone's minds. But while technological advances have altered our work, many of the toxic social dynamics plaguing the office in 1980 are still present today. So, it's fun and eye-opening to use the 1980s references in the movie to comment on our current state and how much has/hasn't changed."

"Honestly, the more things change, the more they stay the same," added Touche. "The technology we use at work has changed drastically, but crooked bosses taking credit for our ideas? Illogical workplace policies that seem to exist solely to make worker's lives miserable? Sexist workplace culture? These things are still very much with us."

Working women

Wadlington pointed out that the film and its three female stars are adored in the LGBT community, and also noted that "9 to 5" is an iconic comedy with a huge fan base.

"In 1980, '9 to 5' was credited for being radical and ahead of its time by discussing equity and sexism in the workplace," Wadlington said. "In 2024, with strikes and layoffs going on around the country in nearly every industry, work is on everyone's minds. It's the perfect time to produce a play for audiences who are fed up with their jobs, need a laugh and some catharsis, especially if they have to deal with a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot in their office."

Touche noted that producing, directing and acting in shows like these is her favorite thing to do as a drag artist. In 2022, she wrote and directed "Harriet Poofter and the Chamber of Secretions" at Oasis.

"The film '9 to 5' is so funny, and still so relevant and relatable," she said. "We've all had horrible bosses. Women still struggle for equitable treatment in the workplace, none of this has changed much, sadly. We still haven't ratified the ERA. But while this is an issue movie in some respects, and gives audiences plenty to cheer for in terms of its strong feminist themes. It's also a beautiful movie about friendship. And it's funny!"

The cast of "9 to 5 Live" includes a who's who of familiar Oasis performers. Coco Buttah will play Tomlin's role of Violet Newstead. Buttah has previously been seen in shows like "Harriet Poofter and the Chamber of Secretions" and "Star Trek Live."

Vanilla Meringue, who co-starred in "Sex and the City Live" and "Harriet Poofter and the Sorcerer's Rhinestone" will essay Judy Bernly, Fonda's role. Drag king Jota Mercury will be seen in Coleman's role of Franklin Hart, the evil boss. And finally Jubilee, aka Wadlington, will round out the leading ladies by playing Doralee Rhodes, Parton's role.

And are Fonda, Tomlin and Parton aware of "9 to 5 Live!"?

"They haven't reached out yet," said Wadlington. "But if you've got connections, please let them know."

9 to 5 Live!, January 11-February 3, Oasis, 298 11th Street, $30-$50. 21+. www.sfoasis.com

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