Q&A with Diana DeGarmo, star of ‘9 to 5: The Musical’

“9 to 5: The Musical,” based on the film starring Dolly Parton, is coming to ASU Gammage Auditorium February 22 to 27. The show follows the story of three friends who hatch a plan to get control of their company. Diana DeGarmo will be playing Doralee Rhodes, the character Dolly Parton portrayed in the original film. DeGarmo spoke with The State Press about the musical, her predecessor and what she’s been up to since she was runner-up in the third season of “American Idol.”

State Press: What is your favorite part of “9 to 5: The Musical”?

Diana DeGarmo: It’s a fun show to perform, and it’s a fun show to be a part of. And it’s a comedy, so we can be goofy up on stage … You kind of feel all warm and fuzzy once the show’s done, and we know that we’re making people happy — and that makes me happy.

SP: Do you have a favorite number to perform?

DD: The song that Doralee sings that kind of introduces her character the most is “Backwoods Barbie,” and I think the reason why I particularly love that song so much is that, A, it’s the most simple song of the show [and] B, it’s a really, really important song to Dolly, because it’s a story about herself, and she admits that she cries every time she hears it. And as a songwriter myself, I know how vulnerable and scary it is to write a song that can be so personal and to have somebody else sing basically your song about you up on stage every night. I know how tough that could be.

SP: Have you had the opportunity to talk with Dolly Parton about this role or about anything?

DD: A little bit, yes and no. I mean, she’s such an icon … I’m still just getting to the point where I can have a conversation with her. I get so star-struck and tongue-tied and just kind of, like, giddy, like a little schoolgirl when I’m around her. I embarrass myself so badly, but I know she had to sign off on me getting the job in the first place. And I’ve read some things that she’s said about me in other interviews, and it’s really wonderful to know somebody that I look up to so much approves of what I do on stage.

SP: What were you doing between your time on “American Idol” and now?

DD: You know, it’s really funny. People tend to think that if you’re not on the cover of US Weekly that you’re not working, and that couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve done everything from USO Tours, traveling oversees performing for our troops, to … two Broadway shows now. I’ve done “Hairspray” and “Hair.” I’ve done one off-Broadway show, “The Toxic Avenger” … I did “Brooklyn,” their first national tour and then, of course, this … I did a show out in LA called “Back to Bacharach and David.” Got to play the narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” out in Oklahoma City. And I moved to Nashville, and I’ve been writing and recording there. I released an EP on iTunes called “Unplugged in Nashville” about two years ago now. I’ve been trying to focus more on finishing up my own country album, but theater has kept me pretty busy.

SP: What was your favorite thing? Can you pick one?

DD: I think that one of the things I’m most proud of is performing overseas with the USO … Coming from a military family and … going over and performing for them … felt like it was my civic duty to do so, and it was quite humbling to see what they experience … I got to go to 13 countries in seven days, and it was a whirlwind. But I would do it again in a heartbeat.

SP: Did you meet a lot of people out there?

DD: I met tons of amazing people, all sorts of men and women: people within the military, some civilian contractors and workers. It was truly also amazing to see how wide of a demographic “American Idol” touches and to see how many people … said, “Oh, my sister or my mom voted for you,” or, “I voted for you.” Even some guys confessed up to watching and voting for me, which I thought was funny.

Tickets can be purchased online at asugammage.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-982-ARTS (2787) or in person by visiting the ASU Gammage box office.

Reach the reporter at mmattox@asu.edu