What: “Broadway in Concert: Evita”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

Cost: $27-$42, plus fees

Contact: towertheatre.org or 541-317-0700

What: “9 to 5: The Musical”

When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday; additional performances 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, till July 1

Where: Cascades Theatre, 148 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend

Cost: $23, $19 seniors, $16 students

Contact: cascadestheatrical.org or 541-389-0803

Two shows with strong leading women at center stage open this weekend in Bend: Cascades Theatrical Company will present a full production of “9 to 5: The Musical,” while the Tower Theatre and Thoroughly Modern Productions will perform “Broadway in Concert: Evita,” a concert version of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about the life of Eva Perón.

Like many modern musicals, “9 to 5” came to life first as a movie — in this case, the 1980 comedy starring Lily Tomlin as Violet, Jane Fonda as Judy and Dolly Parton as Doralee as three coworkers who get fed up with harassment and piggish behavior of their boss, Franklin Hart, played by Dabney Coleman in the film. Together, they take revenge and change the culture at work.

The show got the musical treatment 10 years ago, with a book by Patricia Resnick and music by Parton. The Bend cast, backed by a six-piece band, is played by Tara Johnson as the highly competent Violet, the widowed mother of a teen; Jaime Speed as Judy, who was recently dumped by her husband and thrust into the workplace lacking skills but not smarts; and Vanessa Farnsworth as the shapely secretary who attracts the most unwanted attention from Hart, played by Kevin Kirner.

A bevy of female talent showed up at auditions a few months ago, said director Karen Sipes.

“I’ve never seen so many women — maybe for ‘Les Mis,’ but otherwise — it was just amazing,” she said. “I could have cast the show three times over.”

Many of the actresses ended up in smaller but no less entertaining roles.

In fact, Robin Edwards, as the Hart-worshipping lackey Roz, threatens to steal some of the scenes in which she appears.

With so many capable women interested in roles, Sipes ultimately decided to cast understudies for the main roles of “the Big 3.” (The minor but crucial role of company honcho Tinsworthy was also double cast, with Bill Lindsey and Ed Victor taking turns in the role.)

The Big 3 understudies — Amy Anderton as Violet, Amy James as Judy and Mallory DaCosta as Doralee — will star in the Sunday matinee performance on June 24; otherwise, expect to see the main cast.

Sipes also decided to cast Natalie Kniola as Joe, a younger office worker with a crush on Violet. It was originally written as a role for a male actor.

“I could have added something about, ‘But you’re a woman!’ and I decided not to do that,” Sipes said. “I wanted the relationship to stand on its own strength and respect that something beautiful grew out of Violet’s pain. She’s a widow, and she got a second chance at love. I just wanted that relationship to stand without adding any disclaimers.”

Given the recent news and revelations surrounding the #MeToo movement, “9 to 5” arrives in Bend at a timely moment, Sipes said.

“To a degree, in 1979, (obnoxious male behavior) was normalized,” she said. “Women did not feel empowered to speak up for themselves. It’s actually a pretty rare thing when Violet stands up and says, ‘I am not your girl, I am a womyn, w-o-m-y-n.’ It’s kind of the beginning of that feminist movement.”

At a recent full dress rehearsal, Kirner, much like his castmates in their respective roles, was effective and entertaining as Hart — but, Sipes said, it was tough at first for the actor to behave as badly as Hart.

“I had to really encourage him to behave that way, and to do it as if he’s enjoying it on stage,” Sipes said. “There were a few things that made him uncomfortable, because he is not at all like Hart.”


At the Tower this weekend only, “Broadway in Concert: Evita” boasts a talented cast in a musical theater classic that, like “9 to 5,” explores themes of women and power. It even boasts a Big 3 of its own.

“This show presents itself as the three main people: Che, Eva and (Juan) Perón,” said David DaCosta, director of “Evita,” who decided to set the show in a cabaret in part to overcome the limitations of the Tower’s smaller stage. “It’s a blessing and a curse, I guess, this format,” DaCosta said. Last year’s Broadway in Concert show, “Guys and Dolls,” ended up “more like a full show, with the orchestra squeezed on stage. This is more in line with what we were looking at conceptually” in the initial planning of Broadway in Concert.

Natalie Manz, who’s appeared in past Thoroughly Modern shows including “Peter Pan” and “Shrek,” stars in the title role of Eva Perón, who grew up in poverty, moved to Buenos Aires to act and eventually meets Juan Perón, played by Ryan Klontz, who (quite literally) killed earlier this season in “Evil Dead the Musical.”

Simeon Purkey, a veteran of past TMP offerings including “Willy Wonka,” stars as the revolutionary Che Guevara, who serves as an antagonist and narrator in the show.

“Evita” features a 10-piece orchestra including full percussion and drums, guitar, bass, brass and no fewer than three keyboards, “It’s massive,” DaCosta said. “It’s an in-your-face sound and musical.”

DaCosta has the important role of Eva in capable hands with Manz in the cast, he said.

“She’s a go-to lady for sure,” he said. “She’s just incredibly talented. Pound for pound, she’s probably the best vocalist in town as far as females are concerned. She’s a true triple threat. Natalie is a great dancer, and she’s a great actress.”

DaCosta finds Eva Perón, who died at age 33 in 1952, fascinating as a historical figure. In the era, she came of age when the world leaders included the likes of Mussolini and Hitler.

“Here’s this woman who — at her height — who was as powerful amongst her own people as any of those famous dictators were,” he said. “There’s no mistaking that she, no pun intended, wore the pants in her family. There’s no doubt she’s just an impressive historical figure that we’ve kind of, for whatever reason, lost sight of.”