Becky Gulsvig knew about Dolly Parton growing up, but she didn’t fully appreciate the country music legend until she saw her in concert a few years ago.

“She was so good. She was fantastic,” said Gulsvig, who plays Doralee Rose, the role Parton popularized in the 1980 hit movie “9 to 5,” in the Ogunquit Playhouse version.

“The evening was so enlightening and wonderful,” said Gulsvig. “It’s interesting how people adore her so much — in the old-school meaning of adore, not in the new wave of screaming fans. They genuinely love her, and she is such a lovely, loving person and such a positive person.”

“9 to 5: The Musical,” which opens tonight and will be on stage through Sept. 15, stays pretty true to the film about three office workers and their plans to overthrow their egotistical sexist boss. The American Film Institute named it one of the top 100 funniest movies.

In addition to starring in the movie, Parton wrote the hit title song and added many more for the musical. Patricia Resnick wrote the original screenplay and the book for the musical, which premiered in Broadway in 2009.

The Ogunquit version also stars Sally Struthers, who is in her 10th season with the playhouse, as executive assistant and corporate snitch Roz Keith; Erica Aubrey and Carrie McNulty as Judy Bernly and Violet Newstead, Doralee’s cohorts; and Edward Staundenmayer as Franklin Hart Jr., the nasty boss.

Keith Andrews, who directed and choreographed “Avenue Q” at Ogunquit last summer and “The Full Monty” at the playhouse in 2007, returns to direct “9 to 5.” He said his job is to stay out of the way and let the music and characters tell the story.

“As much as most people do not know the musical, they know the movie because it was so popular back in the ’80s. They have some idea about the show in general,” Andrews said. “They might not remember exactly what it was about, but the characters quickly become familiar, and the story is familiar. The same characters from the movie are there, and the story is pretty much the same.”

Although Parton is best known for her country music, Andrews described the music in this show as “borderline country.” In fact, the song “9 to 5” was a No. 1 hit not just on the country charts, but on the pop charts in 1980.

“I can just barely call it country. It has that pop-sweet country sound to it,” Andrews said.

“9 to 5: The Musical” garnered four Tony Award nominations. It has toured nationally, and this summer is being produced by regional theaters across the country.

The Ogunquit version is a co-production with Gateway Playhouse on Long Island; the same cast presented the show in New York last month.

Gulsvig enjoys acting and singing in the show because it’s fun and empowering. But she said she would have taken any role, in any show, for the chance to work at Ogunquit.

She starred in last season’s version of “Legally Blonde,” and loved her time on the Maine coast and working at Ogunquit particularly. This is the playhouse’s 80th season.

“It’s got such history,” Gulsvig said. “I love that it is quaint and cute and not super ritzy fancy. It’s a lovely playhouse, and there is something a little artsy and gritty about it. I love the setting, I love the town, I love Maine.”

Gulsvig grew up in Minnesota, and performed in many musicals as a youngster. Her parents moved her to New York when she was 17, helped her settle in, then left her there to pursue her dreams.

“I was on my own, and I just started working. I started auditioning and taking voice lessons,” she said. “I got my first job in the first little bit (of time) that I was there, and I went on tour with ‘Peter Pan.’ It seems like ages ago now, and it seems like yesterday.

“My parents were brave. I didn’t know enough to be scared, but they were very brave to leave their child in New York City.”

Gulsvig has sung on Broadway as part of the “Legally Blonde” cast and in “Hairspray.” She has toured with “Legally Blonde,” a role for which she received a Helen Hayes Award nomination.

Parton herself appears in “9 to 5: The Musical” in a video. She introduces the show, and also appears at the end.

Gulsvig has not met Parton, but if she does, she will thank her “for being such a positive role model. I think that is so important.

“Fame has become such a different beast these days, but she comes from the old school, where you really had to work hard. I have so much respect for her.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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