30 November 2021
The film version of 9 to 5 became a huge hit when first released in 1980. The story of three female office workers rebelling against the misogynist male boss made for a film of great fun whilst making a statement veiled in broad humour. The film marked the big screen debut of Dolly Parton who took the role on the condition she wrote and sang the theme song. A canny move. In took till 2009 for the musical version of the film – with music and lyrics by Ms Parton – to hit the stage.
In essence this is a slick and easy transfer of the film to musical theatre; the problem with this trend is that something has to be sacrificed in order to accommodate the songs and that is very much the case here. However, there is no doubt that this loud and brash show has huge audience appeal and is not without its plus points.
Dolly herself appears throughout – not just through her music but via video on the face of a giant alarm clock – narrating parts of the story in her own inimitable way. It’s a clever device and is just what her fans want.
The story shifts around from place to place – sets and furniture are moved slickly by dancing office folk in business attire. The stage is surrounded by a mass of computer terminals which double as lights – a very effective design by Tom Rogers.
Choreography by Lisa Stevens is energetic and sharp and definitely has something of 80’s vibe about it as do the costumes.
With the baton is Beth Jerem who marshalls the small orchestra very effectively – some wonderful work from James Beal on keyboards – though the sound balance was iffy in places and the lyrics came and went out of earshot.
Lighting is excellent as are the many video projections and graphics which have a clarity which sets them above some of what has been seen in the recent past.
As mentioned, Patricia Resnick’s original book has been plundered and it’s inners removed – I was particularly sorry to see the ditching of the fantasy sequences from the original film; by far the funniest part of the movie. The humour has been broadened and any subtleties thrown out of the window. There are plenty of laughs to be had at the fate of the chauvinist – in recent times, the actions of men in high places using their power inappropriately has been very far from a laughing matter. The characters have become caricatures and stereotypes – the dizzy blonde, the camp gay man, the drunk……they are all here. It is a superficial show and should be treated as such; it is entertainment; but what exactly are we all laughing at?
Louise Redknapp leads the cast as the strong-willed and determined Violet Newstead; she is assured, effective and sings well. Stephanie Chandos plays the Parton role and, as Doralee Rhodes she is fun and sassy and Vivian Panka is suitably nervy before growing in confidence as newbie in the office, Judy Bernly. Sean Needham has a field day as the vile Franklin Hart Jnr and squeezes every possible laugh from the song ‘Here For You’. The role of Roz Keith is turned into a cartoon middle-aged woman desperate for sex character – Julia J Nagle relishes the part, but it is such a grotesque presentation that something jars. The humour lurches from smart to crude and then to pantomime – some of it works, some is just too gratuitous.
Musically it is well put over by the busy cast, but – the title song apart – it is an unmemorable score, though unmistakably Parton.
There is fun to be had here, but if you are looking for any nuance or delicacy, then you will be disappointed. Maybe it is time to not worry about the issues of the world, to sit back and relax a bit and enjoy some unpretentious and light-hearted fun.
CAST & CREATIVES
VIOLET NEWSTEAD – LOUISE REDKNAPP
JUDY BERNLY – VIVIAN PANKA
DORALEE RHODES – STEPHANIE CHANDOS
FRANKLIN HART JR – SEAN NEEDHAM
ROZ KEITH – JULIA J NAGLE
JOE – RUSSELL DICKSON
MR TINSWORTHY – RICHARD TAYLOR WOODS
DWAYNE – CALLUM HENDERSON
DICK – ROSS LEE FOWKES
JOSH – RICARDO SPRIGGS
MARGARET – SARAH-MARIE MAXWELL
MISSY – REBEKAH BRYANT
KATHY – EMILY BULL
MARIA – DEMMILEIGH FOSTER
BOB ENRIGHT – SONNY GRIEVSON
CANDY STRIPER – GRACE WALKER
POST BOY – CLAYTON ROSA
MUSIC & LYRICS – DOLLY PARTON
BOOK – PATRICIA RESNICK
DIRECTOR – JEFF CALHOUN
CHOREOGRAPHER – LISA STEVENS
DESIGNER – TOM ROGERS
LIGHTING DESIGN – HOWARD HUDSON
SOUND DESIGN – BEN HARRISON
VIDEO DESIGN – NINA DUNN
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – DEAN MCDERMOTT
ASSISTANT MUSICAL DIRECTOR – BETH JEREM