Writer: Patricia Resnick
Music &Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Reviewer: Robin Winters
Faithfully based on the Oscar-nominated 1980s film with the same name, 9 to 5 is a musical that follows the lives of our three heroines, Judy, Doralee and Violet. The three women hate their mundane 9 to 5 job and hate their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot manager Franklin Hart. Jr even more. But in a time where women are to be only secretaries or housewives, the three girls are stuck. They each fantasise about killing Hart, but just how far will these women go to get rid of their horrible boss? 9 to 5 The Musical shows the funny side of death plots, the joys of friendship and the importance of working as a team presented through the songs of Dolly Parton both new and old.
The show starts off with a bang, singing the crowd pleaser 9 To 5 and we quickly met the leading ladies. Jackie Clune gives an excellent, commanding all round performance as Violet Newstead, the secretary team leader and sure-fire promotional candidate if it weren’t for the fact she was a woman. Amy Lennox who plays Doralee Rhodes, the PA for Mr Hart, is equally strong in her character. She gives off sex appeal without being over the top. Her voice is strong and her solo number Backwoods Barbie is definitely one of the better numbers written by Parton.
Natalie Casey showed a timid but funny Judy Bernley, the girl who’s going to work for the first time after her husband has left her and filed for a divorce. She has great comic timing and her character grows the most as the story progresses. However, Casey’s voice is not as strong as the other leads. What she does lack in volume and and technicality in her voice, she more than makes up with her ability to vocalise Judy’s anguish and courage in Get Out And Stay Out. She shows that a good performance is not just who can stand and sing the nicest.
The star of the show has to be Bonnie Langford, who’s interpretation of Roz Keith the secretary who is not so secretly in love with Mr Hart is funny and endearing. Langford’s dancing in Heart To Hart is brilliant as she strips her clothes off down to her corset and suspenders and enacts a dream of them together. She shows off her acting ability to morph from uptight swat to sexy seducer within one song, while dancing the tango and doing the splits.
A special mention to the ensemble member Lori Haley Fox for her bit part of Margaret the hunchback drunk. She could teach some of the more major rôles a lesson in slapstick as her comic timing was brilliant and, despite being a smaller part, she often stole the scene.
On the whole, the production directed by Jeff Calhoun was fun, witty and uplifting. The plot is true to the film but thin in places. The characters such as Franklyn J Hart played by Ben Richards are a bit one dimensional stereotypes but the cast did their best to pump as much energy and soul into them. The choreography, also devised by Calhoun, was slick and visually entertaining. The ensemble did a good job on the group numbers and managed the scene changes well.
Parton is without a doubt a great song writer and her lyrics are able to tell a story within one song. However, you leave without remembering any of these songs other than the title tune. The lady herself appears in a strange pre-recorded narrator-type sequence to introduce the characters and then to remind you of the leading cast members names at the end. This is unnecessary and detracts from what is going on onstage. Perhaps for die-hard Parton fans, though, this is what they want.
Overall, if you go in expecting to be entertained with some lighthearted humour and bouncy upbeat music then 9 To 5 The Musical will not disappoint. However, this is not a performance that will stay with you for years to come.