With the staging of "9 to 5: The Musical," the Collective Face Theatre Ensemble is doing one of its biggest shows ever.

"It's a big cast of about 18," says David I.L. Poole, the ensemble's artistic director, who is directing the production. "It's got SSU current students and alumni, also Collective Face members and community members, as well. We have a lot of people in this thing."

Collective Face is in its fifth anniversary season. The musical is being presented in cooperation with Savannah State University's Players by the Sea.

The musical, which opens March 10, is as colorful and hilarious as the 1980 film version.

"If you liked the variety shows of the 1970s and 1980s, you will love this musical," Poole says. "If you loved the film, you will love the musical. It's almost identical to the film.

"If you like a political lens, a social lens on women in the workplace, this is a great thing. It's a feminist piece in some aspects.

"And there's great music by Dolly Parton," Poole says. "It's fabulous. It's mostly all original songs with the exception of '9 to 5,' which she wrote during the filming years ago."

While "9 to 5" is a traditional musical, it's got some surprises built in.

"It's got some great, catchy tunes," Poole says. "It's a barrel of laughs. It's a good time."

With the recent closing of the Muse Arts Warehouse, the musical is being staged at Kennedy Fine Arts Auditorium at Savannah State University.

"Being in the Kennedy auditorium, it's more and more like a grandiose kind of thing," Poole says. "We have flying set pieces. We're flying characters in and out. It's a lot of spectacle-driven fun.

"It's true to the period, and 1979 is where we are, with even a special appearance of Dolly Parton through video projection," Poole says. "I've been shopping for months trying to get authentic clothing pieces from the late '70s and early '80s. It's got all kinds of work wear and daywear from that time."

Despite a few curse words, the musical is family-friendly.

"It's short, sweet and to the point," Poole says. "If you liked 'The Carol Burnett Show,' you'll really love it. It's got that sort of thing going."

"9 to 5 The Musical" tells the story of Violet, Judy and Doralee, three women who work for sexist, egotistical, bigoted Franklin Hart.

Violet, played by Lily Tomlin in the film and Karla Knudsen in this production, has worked for Hart for many years, but has never been allowed to advance. Her male coworkers have been given promotions, even though she is more than capable of doing their work.

Judy, played by Jane Fonda in the film and by Amber Hancock in the play, finds herself in the workplace for the first time because her husband has left her. Her first day on the job is a disaster.

Doralee, played by Dolly Parton in the film and Emily Rice in Savannah, is a sexy, happily married country girl who is ostracized by her female coworkers, but has no idea why.

On Judy's first day at work, Hart passes Violet over for another promotion and Doralee finds out he's been telling everyone they're having an affair. The three women unite and concoct a plan to get even with Hart, played by Dabney Coleman in the film and Eric Salles in this production.

"When we were looking at the season, I was looking at vehicles for our leading ensemble members," Poole says. "I was looking for a feminist piece.

"What a great way to talk about issues, but through laughter and music. Just like the film did, the issues are there, but what a great way to talk about them.

"And then there are the friendships," Poole says. "The character of Judy is such an interesting character whose role is very much about women who thought their lives were one thing when the rug was pulled out from under them."

Organizing such a large production has been the biggest challenge of staging "9 to 5."

"The cast is phenomenal," he says. "I couldn't be more pleased.

"We have choreography, sound and special effects," Poole says. "We need stage management and coordination, but it's going well and we're having a grand old time doing it. It's a lot of fun."

And there's more room for all that fun.

"It's a bigger venue with more seats," Poole says. "For people who have direction issues, we've put directions on how to get there on our Facebook page."


What: The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble presents "9 to 5: The Musical"

When: 8 p.m. March 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25; 3 p.m. March 12, 19 and 26

Where: Kennedy Fine Arts Auditorium, Savannah State University, 3129 College St., follow signs

Cost: $25; $20 seniors, students, active military; $5 Savannah State University students and faculty

Info: 912-232-0018, collectiveface.org