LondonMusicalReview

9 to 5: The Musical – New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Music and Lyrics: Dolly Parton

Book: Patricia Resnick

Director: Jeff Calhoun

The cup of ambition isn’t quite full enough in the touring production of 9 to 5, currently renting office space in the New Wimbledon Theatre. Based on the classic 1980 film, Dolly Parton’s musical isn’t as empowering as it should be.

Fed up with the boss, office manager Violet, personal secretary Doralee and new girl Judy, take their revenge and then run the office their way. There’s plenty of humour, singing and dancing, but somehow the evening still feels flat, even in spite of some spirited performances.

Leading these is Louise Redknapp, clearly enjoying herself as Violet who is overlooked for promotion in favour of a man she trained. Redknapp’s voice is clear, but seldom do Parton’s songs require her to show off her full vocal range. As Julie, the timid new employee in the office, Vivian Panka puts in good work and gets the biggest applause of the evening with her solo song, Get Out And Stay Out.

Unfortunately, while Stephanie Chandos looks the part, and even walks the same walk as Parton’s character in the film, much of what she says and sings is garbled in the country accent that she must adopt. With the audience only able to catch a few words here and there, her jokes go nowhere near landing and most of the laughs that she does get come instead from her perfectly timed physical comedy.

As the big bad boss, Sean Needham can’t shake off the ghost of Brian Conley who took the role in the West End, and sometimes it seems as if Needham is doing an impression, rather than remaking the character in his own way. Likewise, while Julia J Nagle is very funny as Roz, who fancies the boss, you can’t help but wish that Bonnie Langford were still in the role as the big reveal in the song Heart To Hart would have a stronger impact coming from a famous actor who seems unlikely to take off her clothes.

The constant scene changes where desks, rubber plants, doors and hospital screens are wheeled on and off stage slow the action down, but there is still much to like in Tom Rogers’s set in which desktop computers light up in different colours. There’s a nice palette change in the second half when suddenly the office is full of 1980s vivid graphics. But this can’t quite make up for the lack of excitement on stage.

The sexual politics seem iffy at times. We are meant to support our trio of women who believe that equal pay is only a few years away, but we are also required to laugh at the boss who vomits when an older woman flirts with him. And importantly it’s a man who saves the day.

In the end it’s like one of those days at work, neither good nor bad, just fine.

Runs to 23 October 2021 and on tour

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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