Diana DeGarmo realized she had more than big shoes to fill when she took on the role of Doralee in the Broadway musical of the film, “9 to 5.”
For five months, DeGarmo has been tackling the character made famous in the movie by country legend Dolly Parton, who also wrote the original music for the stage adaptation.
“When I first found out I got the part, I was excited because (Parton) is an idol of mine in music,” DeGarmo said. “But I knew I had a big bra to fill.”
The national tour, which stops Feb. 22 at Arizona State University Gammage Auditorium, follows the plot of the hit 1980 movie that starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman and Parton, in her first film role. “9 to 5” centers on three working women living out their fantasy of getting even with their sexist, egotistical boss.
DeGarmo said some might think it’s just about female empowerment, but it’s a universal story.
“Many people could probably relate to this story because they’ve probably had a boss that they wanted to shake their fist at,” she said with a laugh.
Parton created the songs for the musical and has been closely involved with the Broadway production and national tour.
“Dolly has randomly popped up at times whenever we’ve been in particular cities,” said DeGarmo. “She is our fairy godmother and to have her seal of approval is wonderful.”
The 23-year-old is enjoying her experience with the national tour of “9 to 5.” Since 2004, she has been in the spotlight and received her first national exposure from Season 3 of “American Idol.”
She was named the runner-up, losing to R&B star Fantasia.
“It was truly a whirlwind. Being 16 and on one of the hottest shows on television can be tough to maneuver at times,” DeGarmo said.
After “Idol,” DeGarmo finished high school and recorded an album “going through the highs and the lows of the record industry.”
That’s when she chose to pursue musical theater, where she had some prior experience before going on the Fox television series.
In 2006, she made her Broadway debut in “Hairspray” and then starred in the national tour of “Brooklyn: The Musical.” She’s also performed in professional productions of “West Side Story,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and off-Broadway’s “Toxic Avenger.”
In addition, she recently closed in the final cast of the Broadway revival of “Hair.”
“Being in theater has opened some big doors for me,” she said. “I’ve had to become a big chameleon when I do these shows.”
As an “Idol” alum, DeGarmo said some might consider her appearance in “9 to 5” as stunt casting.
“I think people automatically might think I’m here because of name recognition, but when they see the show they know I belong here,” she said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “9 to 5: The Musical.”
WHEN: Feb. 22 to 27.
WHERE: Arizona State University Gammage Auditorium, 1200 S. Forest Drive, Tempe.
COST: $23.50 to $67.50.