The Playgoer: What a Way to Make a Living

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

What a Way to Make a Living

by Steven Leigh Morris

Parton and Janney. Photo by C. Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

The bad news is that chaotic world markets now teeter on the brink of a collapse that threatens to hurl any number of countries – ours heading the list – into an economic malaise not seen since the Great Depression.

The good news is that Dolly Parton has written a musical. It's called 9 to 5: The Musical.

The book is by Patricia Resnick, and Joe Mantello directs the show slated to open September 20 at the Ahmanson Theatre. That would be in L.A.'s Music Center, which bears some resemblance to your Lincoln Center. We've even got a fountain, too. If you gaze south, over Disney Hall, you'll see a smattering of skyscrapers and you could imagine you're in New York. You'd have to squint, severely, to create the optical illusion of the Manhattan skyline. This would include a towel over your head to block out the pervasive sprawl of lower altitude buildings, but you could do it if you were here, and you wanted to.

Re-creating Manhattan in downtown L.A. has been the ambition of urban planners here for the better part of a decade, but the Wall Street crisis will surely put a crimp on those developments, for a while.

Wall Street, however, won't stop Tony nominee Allison Janney from starring as Violet Newstead -- “the super efficient office manager who joins her co-workers to turn the tables on their boss.”

The question is, by the Saturday opening, will anyone be in a mood to care. Or maybe this musical will somehow reflect the kind of folly at the top of the business world that got us into this mess. I hope so.

The L.A. Times reported yesterday that several former and current employees of that newspaper have filed a lawsuit against the newspaper's corporate partner, Tribune Co., and it's chief executive, Sam Zell. The charge: “Reckless management destroying the value of the company.”

I couldn't read this without thinking of 9 to 5: The Musical

“The Los Angeles Times is too important to be left in the hands of corporate raiders,” auto columnist and Pulitzer Prize-recipient Dan Nell was reported as saying.

The plaintiffs want to recover losses to the employee stock option plan, to replace the Tribune board of directors and they want a full accounting of pension plan assets, the article said.

Maybe Dolly's musical will capture the moment. Or it could help vaporize the anxiety of these days by some sweet powers of distraction. We'll see.

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