Wagoner and Parton had a bitter split after she left for bigger stages. They eventually reconciled, and she was at his bedside when he died last year at age 80. She remains close to his family and holds no grudge against him. After all, Wagoner recognized her talent, and not just her cup size.
Parton has spent a lifetime fending off unwanted passes ("Still do. Even at my age!" she declared with another giggle), but she's long been known as one of pop's most productive workers. That reputation is more than deserved, say her "9 to 5" co-creators.
"She is the least diva-ish diva in the entire world," said Resnick, who's worked with Parton not only on both versions of "9 to 5" but other projects, including the singer's last major film, the 1992 comedy "Straight Talk." "She's generous and flexible, so easy and fun to work with. She also functions on very little sleep."
Most important for the intense collaboration that goes into making a musical, Parton is a quick study. Musical director Stephen Oremus enthused about her ability to compose on command. Speaking by phone from the theater, where the show was in previews, Oremus recalled a particularly striking incidence of deftness.
"Because of the way the story was changing, it needed a new lyric here or there," he said. "Dolly would be fine with it. She'd just say, play me the line. One time, I played it for her twice and she said, OK, I'm going to go to the ladies' room, and I'll come back with the line.' She not only came back with the line; she had several. She said, 'Here's my favorite and here are two alternates in case you don't like it.' "
For Parton, being flexible never meant relinquishing control. She's spent her career defying people's expectations and standing up for her due; it's not for nothing that she's earned the nickname "the Iron Butterfly." She's been actively involved in every step of the evolution of this Broadway-bound show, adaptable and friendly, but determined that the music remains her own.
Asked if she ever had problems with changes, she replied, "Well, if I did I would say so, because I had the right. Because it was my music. I had to have control of the music. They all respect that. But they also know I'm a smart enough girl, so that if somebody's making it better than it was, I'm going to be the first to say, go with that."
In turn, Oremus did his best to "Dollyize" the orchestrations. "We're not trying to shoehorn Dolly into the Broadway idiom," he said. "We use pedal steel and dobro, elements that Dolly loves. We've got some country fiddle in there. We've added little flavors that don't come out specifically country but give it a sense of character."
The result is a musical that fits in with the genre's recent hits -- Greenblatt cites "Hairspray" and "The Producers" as inspiration, but it is also pure Dolly. Parton couldn't be happier. Meanwhile, she's on to her next round of projects, which includes more touring to support "Backwoods Barbie," a possible dance music album and that still-unfinished stage production about her own life. Her future is open. Only one thing is for sure: Now that she's spent some time behind the scenes of a major production, she's ready to be back at center stage.
"I want to be out there," she declared. "I love being an entertainer. My whole life is like, 'See me, see me!' I want to be seen, I want to be loved."
"9 to 5: The Musical," Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 19. $30-$100. (213) 628-2772.