From left, Kimberly Elliott, Meg Berger, Ron Bernas and Jennifer Dewey star in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “9 to 5 The Musical.”

From left, Kimberly Elliott, Meg Berger, Ron Bernas and Jennifer Dewey star in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “9 to 5 The Musical.”

Photo by Marie La Rose, provided by Grosse Pointe Theatre

‘9 to 5 The Musical’ combines message with mirth

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 24, 2024

GROSSE POINTE PARK — As the daughter of a woman who was a doctor in the 1960s and 1970s — long before female doctors were common — Rachel Settlage, of Grosse Pointe Park, grew up with a role model for female empowerment.

So Settlage, who would go on to become an attorney and legal scholar, was the ideal choice to direct Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “9 to 5 The Musical,” which will be staged Jan. 26 to Feb. 4 in the Pierce Middle School auditorium in Grosse Pointe Park. Based on the 1980 movie — which starred Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin — the musical comedy tells the story of three female office co-workers who get their revenge against their smarmy, sexist, egomaniacal boss. In the process, they transform their workplace for the better.

Settlage remembers seeing the movie with her mom, who loved it.

“The theme of women’s empowerment really spoke to me,” Settlage said. “And it still does. This whole story is about women’s empowerment and women supporting each other. The relationships between these women is just magical.”

Kimberly Elliott, of Canton, portrays Judy Bernly, who was played by Fonda in the film.

“It’s definitely a girl-power show,” Elliott said. “I think women still face a lot of misogyny on the internet and social media. We’ve come a long way, obviously, but (sexism still exists).”

Ron Bernas, of Grosse Pointe Woods, plays the evil boss, Franklin Hart Jr.

“I’m just kind of channeling every gross, disgusting boss I’ve ever had and rolling them into one,” Bernas said.

Bernas said audiences today see this story differently than they did when the movie was released. Today, Hart’s attitudes and behavior aren’t funny. The character’s cluelessness, however, still gets laughs.

“The whole joke is, he is a fool but he’s the only one who doesn’t know it,” Bernas said.

Parton, who penned the movie’s iconic title track, also wrote the music for this show, which is set in New York City circa 1979. Besides smart, catchy numbers, audience members will see period clothing, hairstyles and office equipment like typewriters.

“If they’ve seen the movie, it’s just as funny and heartening, but what’s amazing about this show is Dolly’s music,” Settlage said. “Her music is just life-affirming.”

It’s also “very challenging” for the vocalists and musicians in the show, Elliott said of Parton’s tunes.

“Dolly loves syncopation,” Elliott said.

Other members of the cast are Meg Berger as Violet Newstead (played by Tomlin in the film), Jennifer Dewey as Doralee Rhodes (played by Parton in the film), Erin Getzin as Roz Keith, Robby Mullinger as Joe, Alex Quinlan as Dwayne, Joshua Stuckless as Josh, Kristina Kamm-Mardlin as Missy, Bronwen Mischel as Maria, Britta Peele-Spitzer as Kathy, Soula Burns as Margaret and Kenneth Franzel as Tinsworthy.

Playing office staffers and other members of the ensemble are Dominic Aldini, Anthony Dondero, Melissa Schroeder, Kristin Pagels Quinlan, Megan Welenc, Sean Belanger, Ashley Gatesy and Ron Blair.

Settlage said her cast “is amazing,” and Bernas concurred.

“It’s really deep, talent-wise,” Bernas said. “I’m really happy to be part of this production.”

While Mr. Hart might be despicable, Settlage said the show has many other male characters who are decent and supportive of the women around them.

Whether people have seen the movie or not, Elliott hopes audiences will come see this show.

“It’s funny,” Elliott said. “It’s up-tempo. It still has a lot of heart. There’s dancing and singing. It has a good message. … It’s kind of like the ‘Barbie’ movie in that it’s a cute and fun (story) that makes you think.”

Pierce is located at 15430 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at the door or in advance. For tickets or more information, visit or call (313) 881-4004.