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Dolly Parton, in town for 'American Idol,' works '9 to 5'

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Dolly_parton_american_idol_5 Dolly Parton is in Hollywood this week to show those American Idol kids how it’s done (watch for her on the show Wednesday night). But the most intriguing appearance she’s made during her time in L.A. these last few days was a brief concert at the House of Blues for a theatrical “group sales” event, where she was touting the wonders of an upcoming Broadway show, 9 to 5, for which she’s written a full song score. And let’s just get this out of the way now now: It’s a given that any new Broadway musical is a long shot, given how most of them lose money — and lots of it. But 9 to 5 on the Great White Way with this particular team has got to be the shortest long shot of all time.

Of course you know it’ll be based on the 1980 movie comedy in which Parton costarred with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Maybe you don’t know that it’ll be directed by Joe Mantello, the hottest helmer in New York, thanks to his triumph with Wicked. You’re probably not yet aware that it’ll star Allison Janney in the Tomlin role; Megan Hilty (currently doing a great Glinda in the L.A. cast of Wicked) in the Parton part; Stephanie J. Block (currently Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway) in the Fonda role; and one of the theater’s best-liked actors, Mark Kudisch, in the slot that was occupied by Dabney Coleman in the movie. The book is by Patricia Resnick, the frequent Robert Altman collaborator, who also wrote the 9 to 5 screenplay three decades ago.

EW.com spoke with Parton and Janney before they did their song-and-dance for the group buyers. (It’s safe to say that Dolly had them at hello, or at least at her trademark “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap” line, uttered as she asked them to empty their pocketbooks.) The show’s creators came to her more than three years ago to ask if she’d be interested in writing the music. “I’m not all that familiar with Broadway,” Parton said, “but I said I’d love to give it a try. I sat down and wrote for two weeks and came up with 30 songs. They really loved ’em, and they’re keeping 85 percent of what I wrote.” Really? She came up with all the music for the show in two weeks? “I got a lot of snacks and went for it,” she assured us.

Parton said she had the easiest time getting inside the head of the character she originally played, natch — and it’s that “Doralee Rhodes” who gets to sing a tune called “Backwoods Barbie.” If that sounds familiar, it’s also the title track of Parton’s self-released new album. But don’t imagine an all-country score: “There’s several really commercial songs that could be pop or rock [hits], and I’m hoping to do some of them myself” on future recordings.

If you’re wondering how she’s feeling — remember, she recently postponed her tour because of back problems that she correlated to her famous front — she insists she’s fine. “I better be, because I’ve got my tour starting on the 22nd of April in Pittsburgh, and before that, the season opening of Dollywood April 11th and 12th. I just had some problems with my muscles that I had to work out for a few weeks before I could put on the tight clothes again.”

Janney, meanwhile, sang the 9 to 5 songs at a workshop this past summer, and she’s champing at the bit to start rehearsals in July for the show, which premieres at L.A.’s cavernous Ahmanson in September before moving on to Broadway next February. “I wanted to see if I felt confident,” said the star of The West Wing and Juno. “I like to sing, but I’ve not been in a musical in quite some time, and never on Broadway” (though she got a Tony nomination for her work in an — obviously — non-musical Arthur Miller play, A View from the Bridge). “I was in Hairspray, the movie, but I didn’t get to sing. I wanted to see how I felt before I committed, and I fell in love with it.”

So, the big question: Is Allison Janney a belter, and she just didn’t know it? “I totally am!” she said, straightening up in her seat with a big grin. “You are gonna hear me — and you’re gonna enjoy it.” Yes, ma’am! If she’s not totally jiving us with that confidence, maybe she’ll be coaching the contestants on Idol in a few years.

EW.com spoke with Parton and Janney before they did their song-and-dance for the group buyers. (It’s safe to say that Dolly had them at hello, or at least at her trademark “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap” line, uttered as she asked them to empty their pocketbooks.) The show’s creators came to her more than three years ago to ask if she’d be interested in writing the music. “I’m not all that familiar with Broadway,” Parton said, “but I said I’d love to give it a try. I sat down and wrote for two weeks and came up with 30 songs. They really loved ’em, and they’re keeping 85 percent of what I wrote.” Really? She came up with all the music for the show in two weeks? “I got a lot of snacks and went for it,” she assured us.

Parton said she had the easiest time getting inside the head of the character she originally played, natch — and it’s that “Doralee Rhodes” who gets to sing a tune called “Backwoods Barbie.” If that sounds familiar, it’s also the title track of Parton’s self-released new album. But don’t imagine an all-country score: “There’s several really commercial songs that could be pop or rock [hits], and I’m hoping to do some of them myself” on future recordings.

If you’re wondering how she’s feeling — remember, she recently postponed her tour because of back problems that she correlated to her famous front — she insists she’s fine. “I better be, because I’ve got my tour starting on the 22nd of April in Pittsburgh, and before that, the season opening of Dollywood April 11th and 12th. I just had some problems with my muscles that I had to work out for a few weeks before I could put on the tight clothes again.”

Janney, meanwhile, sang the 9 to 5 songs at a workshop this past summer, and she’s champing at the bit to start rehearsals in July for the show, which premieres at L.A.’s cavernous Ahmanson in September before moving on to Broadway next February. “I wanted to see if I felt confident,” said the star of The West Wing and Juno. “I like to sing, but I’ve not been in a musical in quite some time, and never on Broadway” (though she got a Tony nomination for her work in an — obviously — non-musical Arthur Miller play, A View from the Bridge). “I was in Hairspray, the movie, but I didn’t get to sing. I wanted to see how I felt before I committed, and I fell in love with it.”

So, the big question: Is Allison Janney a belter, and she just didn’t know it? “I totally am!” she said, straightening up in her seat with a big grin. “You are gonna hear me — and you’re gonna enjoy it.” Yes, ma’am! If she’s not totally jiving us with that confidence, maybe she’ll be coaching the contestants on Idol in a few years.