Book: Patricia Resnick
Music and Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 the Musical is the musical adaptation of the popular 1980s 20th Century Fox movie and tells the stories of office workers Violet Newstead, Judy Bernly and Doralee Rhodes and how they come together to overthrow their misogynistic boss Franklin Hart Jr. The show has a strong cast and features a great score, however, in some ways the story hasn’t necessarily aged very well. Audiences of different ages seemed to respond in different ways. What some older members of the audience found funny, younger audience members just found uncomfortable to watch. Regardless, overall, this is still a great night out.
Dolly Parton’s music is very enjoyable for the most part. Several songs, most notably Get Out and Stay Out, have become musical theatre standards although the song newly written for the new UK version Hey Boss doesn’t really add much to the show. Patricia Resnick’s book, directed by Jeff Calhoun, is a pacy and keeps moving. The show never drags and it isn’t too long. Lisa Stevens’ choreography is brilliant and executed wonderfully by a talented ensemble – this is a show packed to the brim with big ensemble numbers. Tom Rogers’ set is simple and very much reliant on Nina Dunn’s video design but it works for depicting the key locations. Richard Mawbey’s wigs are sometimes disappointing and often looked cheap, especially when sat up close.
Claire Sweeney leads the cast as Violet Newstead, having taken over from Louise Redknapp for the 2022 dates. She gives a great performance, and the more emotional moments are lovely to watch. She is very well cast in the role and it is great to finally see her take it on. Vivian Panka makes her UK stage debut as Judy Bernly and her performance is beautiful. She portrays the character’s development excellently and her vocals are stunning. She puts her own stamp on Get Out and Stay Out and brilliantly acts the song. Panka is certainly one to look out for in the future. Stephanie Chandos completes the leading trio as Doralee Rhodes and she really grounds the character in reality. Sometimes the role can become a bit of a stereotype or a Dolly Parton tribute act but this is not the case for Chandos. She is much more softly spoken than previous actresses to take on the role and this makes her likeable and completely believable. Her vocals are powerful and takes on the more belty moments excellently.
Franklin Hart Jr. is played Sean Needham who returns to the role after understudying in London and playing the role on the previous UK tour. He has great comic timing and his vocals are strong. At times, his accent is a little questionable though. Julia J Nagle as Roz Keith is outstanding. She is a powerhouse vocalist and very funny. The character is very often a caricature but equally, Nagle’s more emotional moments are lovely to watch.
The show has a strong ensemble, several of whom give great performances in supporting roles. Russell Dickson as Joe is outstanding. It’s a shame the character doesn’t get more to do and have more time on stage to develop his relationship with Violet. Despite this, Dickson and Sweeney have a great chemistry and Dickson’s rendition of Let Love Grow is stunning. Ross Lee Fowkes is perfectly dislikeable as Judy’s ex-husband Dick and Sonny Grieveson as Bob Enright is great fun to watch, in a role that often can be forgettable. Sarah-Marie Maxwell is a highlight of the production as Margaret. Her performance is hilarious and portrays the character’s big transformation very well.
9 to 5 the Musical is a great night out, despite some aspects not feeling like they belong in the 21st century. Although some of the design elements are lacking a little bit, the talented cast give their all to put on a fantastic show that the audience clearly loved.
Runs until 12th February 2022