When the movie “9 to 5” was released in 1980, it was set in the present. But when the musical version appeared on Broadway in 2008, it was set in 1979, a year before the movie came out.
That means this story about three secretaries getting revenge on their sexist boss, which is currently playing at the North Shore Music Theatre, is now set 30 years in the past.
If this makes the stage version seem partly an exercise in nostalgia for the 1970s, it also raises the question of whether the story’s feminist message is still relevant.
“We’ve come a long way, baby,” said Dee Hoty, who stars as Violet Newstead in North Shore’s production. “But we still have a long way to go.”
Hoty, who has been nominated for three Tony Awards in her career, had recently graduated from college and was trying to make it as an actress in New York when she first saw the movie.
She loved “9 to 5,” but remembers thinking that Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin looked old when she saw it in 1980.
She thought they looked young when she watched the movie again in 2010, to prepare for her role in the national tour, but also realized how much she had in common with Violet.
“I looked at the movie just to refresh my memory, for the shape of the whole story,” she said. “Now I do identify with Violet, making her way in a man’s world. You make your own breaks, but she keeps getting passed over.”
It has never been easy for Hoty, either. When she was in her 20s, auditioning for her first roles in New York, she supported herself by selling cosmetics at a department store and cat-sitting friends’ apartments.
“I just started pounding the pavement,” she said.
Now that she has earned Tony nominations for starring roles in “The Will Rogers Follies,” “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public” and “Footloose,” Hoty admits that her hard work has paid off.