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‘9 to 5’ actress looking for a 9-to-5 gig

By Bill Lynch, Staff writer
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette
Office warfare gets taken to the next level in the Charleston Light Opera Guild’s production of “9 to 5,” opening Friday at the Civic Center Little Theater. The musical comedy, based on the 1980 film, stars (from left) Rudi Raynes, Rebecca Mullins, Kennie Bass and Cary Brown.

Rebecca Mullins is at an interesting point her life.

The 33-year-old actress, who stars as Violet Newstead in the Charleston Light Opera Guild’s production of “9 to 5,” just moved back to Charleston.

“I’ve kind of been in an interesting transitional period,” Mullins said. “I’m a single mom to a 5-year-old boy. Last year, I finished up my doctorate at Ohio State. We moved back to Charleston in February.”

A week later, she heard about auditions for the musical, which opens Friday at the Civic Center Little Theater, and jumped at the chance to try out.

“I hadn’t done anything like this since before I started this degree,” said Mullins, whose doctorate is in musical arts. “I’ve been so focused on classical music and doing recitals and writing a dissertation, there just wasn’t time.”

So, with some help from her parents to watch her son, Jack, she threw herself back into it.

Coming back to musical theater in Charleston has been kind of an eye-opening experience. Her last performance with the guild was seven years ago when she played Mother in “Ragtime.”

Mullins barely knew anyone at the early rehearsals for this show, least of all her co-stars.

She said, “I didn’t know Cary [Brown] or Rudi [Raynes] because I hadn’t done a show with either of them. I knew Kennie Bass. I hadn’t done a show with him either, but everybody knows Kennie.”

Mullins said the show has come together very well. The toughest challenge has been the music.

“I think the choral arrangements have been very interesting,” she said. “They were written on a treble clef with men singing the bottom line.”

The music goes in some unusual directions, Mullins thought.

“I’m a mezzo soprano. There are parts when my character is singing lower than the men, and I think that’s funny.”

The audience, she said, will like the music, though most everyone who comes to the show probably has never heard it. While the musical is based on the 1980s movie starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman, the movie wasn’t a musical.

It really only had the one song — the title theme — but it was a good song.

Written by Parton, “9 to 5” topped the country and pop charts, sold more than a million copies as a single and earned Parton two Grammy Awards and an Academy Award nomination.

“It’s been stuck in my head for over a month now,” Mullins added.

“My 5-year-old has been singing it, too,” she said. “He’s been singing all the songs.”

For the Broadway version, Parton came back and wrote new songs.

“It’s really fun.”

But probably the only song anyone will remember is still going to be the title song.

The musical has been a good experience for Mullins and something to occupy her time while she looks for work. Before she left to pursue her doctorate, Mullins was an adjunct vocal and choral instructor at West Virginia Tech, but she wanted more.

“If you want to teach full-time at that level, you really have to have a doctorate. You just won’t be in the running without it,” she said.

So, she got her degree. But finding a teaching position will take time.

“It’s bad time to be out there,” she said. “The economy is not good, and people are making cuts, not expanding.”

She acknowledged that she has some holes in her resume. While she has the doctorate and did the required recitals and reports, she didn’t have the luxury of putting herself out there.

“I’ve been busy raising a 5-year-old,” she said. “Not gallivanting all over Europe singing.”

She took a different path, and while her voice might not have rung out in marble concert halls across the sea, that different path offered some practical strengths.

“I have a lot of versatility,” she said. “I’ve got a willingness to do a lot of different things, and I have a background in working with all kinds of people — from daycare all the way up to the university level.”

Mullins hopes it will pay off.

Working 9 to 5 doesn’t sound so bad.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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