What a way to make a livin’

What a way to make a livin’

Some days, it’s more than ‘9 to 5’

By Brian P. Sharp

The cast of the national touring production '9 to 5: The Musical'

I had the opportunity to talk with Diana DeGarmo who plays Doralee Rhodes in the musical, “9 to 5,” coming to the Schuster Center February 1 through 6.  The role was made famous in the movie by Dolly Parton – one of Diana’s personal idols. When asked if DeGarmo could be given the opportunity to perform with anyone – she said, “I would want to perform with Dolly Parton.”

DeGarmo is no stranger to the stage. Before “9 to 5” and her involvement in “American Idol,” she appeared in many productions including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Show Choir” and she even played the role of the little orphan herself in  “Annie” at one time. DeGarmo then went on to work at Opryland and Dollywood, amazingly enough.

Of course, “American Idol” was a catalyst for moving her career forward. Diana DeGarmo appreciates having an opportunity to be a part of something great on television, even though it might earn a bad rap. “There really is talent in that reality TV program,” she said. She hopes that she is an example of that.

After “American Idol,” DeGarmo’s career took another turn back to center stage. DeGarmo wanted to take a step back and earned a part onstage in “West Side Story” in San Jose, Calif. – a role that got her closer to her family.

Following the end of “West Side Story,” DeGarmo had the chance to audition for “Hairspray” the movie, however, in a weird twist of fate, she was cast in “Hairspray” the musical. After that run, DeGarmo took a break, went back to Nashville and stayed there until another Broadway opportunity came knocking. She decided it was the “dawning of the age of aquarius,” as she put it, and took a role in “Hair.” From there, the role led her to the role she holds currently, Doralee.

This role is special to DeGarmo, not just because of the tie to Dolly, but mostly because it gives a new dimension to southern women. “Many roles for southern women are dumbed down and simple, “she said. “Doralee is strong, smart and down to earth.” The role has great character and affords DeGarmo the opportunity to bridge her musical and theatrical talents.

With an already storied career in both theatre and television, DeGarmo had many fun stories to tell about live, funny moments on stage. Once during “Hairspray,” one of the actresses (who was always throwing lines) messed up a line and it threw everyone off. The actress turned around right in front of DeGarmo and said, “shit!” DeGarmo was left wide-eyed, facing the audience.

On another occasion during “West Side Story,” DeGarmo’s skirt got caught in a door.  “If that wasn’t bad enough, it was on a moving set piece. One that was moving the opposite way!” Then during “Hair,” DeGarmo was to run on stage and then start sliding – in corduroy pants – to the front of the stage. Unfortunately, the technical crew had glued some things down and DeGarmo caught her knee in the glue, thus sending her sliding on her stomach nearly into the lap of a lady in the front row. “You’ve just got to love live theatre!” she said.

One of DeGarmo’s proudest moments of her career to date came when she had the opportunity to travel with the USO to visit the troops in Afghanistan.  “It was one way for me to see what our troops were dealing with everyday and to give something back to them,” she said.

When she is not working or auditioning, DeGarmo has some pretty interesting hobbies.

“I am a NASCAR junkie. In fact, I have been to the Richard Petty Driving Experience and hope to go again soon.” She said that was just a huge rush! She also loves to bait her own hook, catch her own fish and take them off the line.  Who knew?

“American Idol” was a rollercoaster experience for DeGarmo with big ups and downs.  She said, “It was a great stepping stone and an amazing experience” She is very proud that she made it on the show and believes it was no coincidence. “Everything happens for a reason,” she said. DeGarmo also said she has managed to stay in touch with some of the other “Idol” alumnae and Paula Abdul was able to even come see her in “Hair.”

“9 to 5” the musical begins as the clock rings and Violet, Doralee and Judy prepare for another day of work (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) … with Franklin Hart, Jr. President of Consolidated Industries. Franklin Hart Jr., is a domineering and lecherous man, who lusts after his secretary, Doralee. Join these ladies for the ride of your life as they embark on a hilarious plan to take control of employee morale … and the boss at the same time.  Enjoy some amazing musical numbers and trip down memory lane to the Rolodex and IBM selectric era.

“9 to 5” received four 2009 Tony Awards and 15 Drama Desk Nominations. It is based on the book by Patricia Resnick (co-writer of the original screenplay). Also starring Dee Hoty, who attended Otterbein College and Mamie Paris, with Diana DeGarmo as leading ladies Judy, Violet and Doralee.

So, pour yourself a cup of ambition … and get your tickets now to see “9 to 5.” After work, of course.

Reach theatre critic Brian P. Sharp by emailing him at theatre@daytoncitypaper.com


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