Workplace Comedy Reborn on Theatre Stage

A trio of Armstrong County actors will try to change the office culture at “Consolidated Industries” after kidnapping their boss in the theatre version of the 1980’s movie “9 to 5” this weekend.

by Jonathan Weaver

About 20 local thespians will showcase their talent on stage this weekend at the Casino Theatre in Vandergrift.

Armstrong Community Theater’s annual musical is hoping to make audiences laugh with the live version of “9 to 5” – the musical version of the 1980 movie comedy starring, among others, actress Jane Fonda and country singer/songwriter Dolly Parton.

Director Paul Wright, of North Buffalo Township, described the musical (and movie) concept.

“Back then, it was a man’s world, and (the female leads “Judy Bernly,” “Violet Nestead” and “Doralee Rhodes”) didn’t like the way the boss (“Franklin Hart, Jr.,” played by Dan Lorigan, of Worthington) was running things, so they kidnap him, lock him up in his house and make all these changes to the office,” Wright explained. “It’s a very funny show. I would highly advise you to watch the movie.”

Emily Younkins (who plays Consolidated-newcomer ‘Judy’) recruited two fellow Thiel College alumna – Michelle Reefer (office supervisor ‘Violet’) and Cathy Lippert, of Butler (portrays “Martha”) – after the trio performed with the Thiel Players about 25 years ago.

“We’ve been friends for a long, long time,” Younkins said. “That’s kind-of fun that we got to get re-acquainted.”

Despite “9 to 5” being her first Armstrong Community Theater show, Reefer, of Indiana (Pa.), also performed community theater in New York. She called it a “whirlwind” experience so far.

“Since I moved into the area about five years ago, she’s been trying to convince me to audition and I never did because I (didn’t) work close enough to come for practices – but I work in Kittanning now so it was close enough to try out,” Reefer said.

“I wasn’t expecting to get one of the leads, so that was pretty cool. And a lot of work – you’re coming to Worthington in the evenings two or three days per week (to rehearse),” Reefer added. “It’s been busy for sure, (but) I’m excited, ready to actually do it in front of a crowd.”

Reefer is CEO of the Progressive Workshop of Armstrong County, with her office on Oak Avenue in Kittanning.

Like ‘Judy,’ Younkins was a stay-at-home mother for 10 years before returning to work at a family medical practice.

“I now consider myself pretty-independent. I’ve grown my own backbone, so I can relate to ‘Judy,’ Younkins said.

Reefer and Younkins auditioned the same day in Worthington.

This weekend’s musical is a chance for Karissa Lloyd to perform on her hometown stage – where she starred in Vandergrift’s first “Hometown Christmas” in 1995 – as ‘Doralee’– the down-to-earth but rowdy from Texas.

It is also Lloyd’s eighth summer musical with Armstrong Community Theater.

Lloyd has seen snippets of the movie, and can relate as she works as a check services clerk at Bank of New York Mellon in Pittsburgh.

“A lot of this humor is very funny to me – I see them dancing with the file folders and I’m thinking ‘Why aren’t I doing that at my office?’”

Wright expects Armstrong County theater fans as well as some from the Alle-Kiski Valley to come to the nearly-two and a half hour show.

Reefer also expects many Progressive Workshop employees to attend performances.

Doors open at 7PM for tomorrow, Friday and Saturday’s performances.

General admission tickets are $15 each, and can be purchased at the door or The Quality Inn Royle in Kittanning, Worthington Community Library or Pomfret’s Paint and Variety Store in Vandergrift.