Book: Patricia Resnick
Music: Dolly Parton
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
After a working day, there’s nothing better than time with friends and family and some sheer escapism to help you unwind – and the latest show to grace the Palace Theatre’s stage is one post 9 to 5 treat that you don’t want to miss.
9 to 5 The Musical is a show that like Mamma Mia is all about the feel-good factor and one that should be approached with an open mind. The plot is beyond ludicrous, some of the dialogue is ultra cheesy, but somehow the jigsaw pieces all fit together to make a far-fetched yet fabulously fun piece of theatre. And beyond the sublimely ridiculous is an important still highly relevant message about gender equality (or lack of it) in the workplace and a real nod and celebration towards female empowerment
Directed by Jeff Calhoun, the musical, which is adapted from the 1980 movie and boasts an Oscar, Grammy and Tony award-nominated score, has come direct from the West End, with many of the original Savoy Theatre cast transferring to the tour. At the centre of the plot are three women, Violet Newstead (Louise Redknapp), Judy Bernly (Amber Davies) and Doralee Rhodes (Georgina Castle), who together and in hilarious fashion get the better of their male chauvinist pig boss Franklin Hart Jnr (Sean Needham), and ultimately change the demoralised Consolidated Industries’ workplace for the better.
Together, the trio of leading ladies show real chemistry and (very much intentional given the sentiment behind the production) superiority over the male cast – their timing, togetherness and talent really holding the show together. Eternal singer and former Strictly Come Dancing star Redknapp plays a convincing role of the ambitious supervisor desperate for career progression, while musical theatre star Davies – perhaps most famous for her stint on ITV2’sLove Island – wows as the initially kooky yet soon to be feisty Judy. Her version of Get Out and Stay Out, provides one of the most sincere and stunning moments of the entire show. But truly at the top of her game is Castle, playing the role based on the country legend herself Dolly Parton and one that proves that substance is far superior to style. Her singing voice is absolutely beautiful, and her versatility on the stage really shines through.
The male lead Needham provides some light-hearted comedy moments, especially at the very end of Act One, although not the best singing voice. Other cast members who should be applauded are Lucinda Lawrence as the law-abiding and infatuated Roz Keith, and in particular the best-supporting actress title goes to Laura Tyrer as Margaret, the tipsy colleague who never fails to keep the audience entertained.
The cast, on the whole, are superbly strong, and despite being based in the 80s, the choreography is far from set in the past. With a backdrop of impressive projections and a set that remains slick in its transitions, the ensemble do a remarkable job of keeping a flimsy plot engaging and enjoyable throughout. From the very beginning (which even includes a clever little prelude by the most honoured female country performer of all time Parton), energy levels do not drop – resulting in a standing ovation for the finale and reprisal of the title song.
It is relevant and ridiculous, comedic and crazy, and with a star-studded and polished cast, it really is enough to drive you crazy (with rip-roaring entertainment) if you let it.
Runs until 21 September 2019 | Image: Simon Turtle