9 to 5 – The Musical

When settling in to watch a Dolly Parton musical, with the title 9 to 5, one would be forgiven for thinking that the next 2 and a half hours of musical theatre might actually be against a backdrop of bales of hay, hoe-downs and a portrayal of life in the deep south.

And whilst there’s no reason that scenario wouldn’t be enjoyable, this musical just isn’t … that.

It’s sharp, clever choreography with impressive set company pieces, comedic surprise after surprise (no, really), and most importantly it is fore-fronted by 3 women, whose lives are presented in the context of their struggle against the patriarchy – at work, at home and in society.

Based on the film of the same name, 9 to 5 the musical centres around Violet, Judy and Doralee who all work at Consolidated Industries which is headed up by the slimiest, misogynistic, depraved boss Franklin Hart. Violet is a seasoned professional who has been passed over for promotion time and time again, Doralee is a happily married down to earth country girl who is judged unfairly based on how she looks (ring any bells?), and Judy is in her first job after recently separating from her cheating husband.

Cold towards each other at first, the 3 women slowly come to realise they have more in common and could achieve something by working together, however bizarrely this realisation might play out in reality…

With music and lyrics by the iconic Dolly Parton, the show has a great mixture of stand-out company numbers with intricate choreography by Lisa Stevens and slick direction by Jeff Calhoun. The soundtrack provides lots of opportunities for the 3 main characters to show off their vocal talent and ability.

Claire Sweeney heads up the cast as Violet Newstead, commanding the stage and impressing with her strong vocal range and portrayal of a more mature woman who has spent her entire career waiting to be recognised for what she does, culminating in taking control of hers and her female co-workers roles within the company.

Stephanie Chandos is incredible as Doralee Rhodes, an ode to the great Dolly herself. Her characterisation and accent was en pointe (even if you do have to tune your ears in a little to the thick Tennessee accent!) and her voice was outstanding.

Vivian Panka makes her UK debut as Judy Bernly and I have to say she is an absolute cut above. From her first entrance on to the stage Panka’s crystal clear, beautiful voice came out across the company, and she continued to impress, particularly in Get Out and Stay Out in Act 2.

The book is by Patricia Resnick who says in the programme notes that she had always wanted to write a film about secretaries and their experiences. What comes across strongly in the production is the extreme versions and portrayals of the characters. Particularly Franklin Hart, portrayed excellently by Sean Needham. Each seedy suggestion, each misogynistic outburst is presented as over-the-top comedy and actually, it works really well at getting the message across and really making you think about the experiences being portrayed in a real world context.

There’s quite a range of opportunities for female characters too, Roz Keith is played by Julia J Nagle who has a really difficult job of portraying a character who is up-tight and no-nonsense but has a deeper, darker desire when it comes to her relationship with her boss. Again, presented in a hugely comical way, Julia J Nagle did a fantastic job and was hilarious.

This musical provides a really funny, enjoyable night out and presents issues that were of the time but are also absolutely about women’s experiences now.

9 to 5 The Musical is at The Regent Theatre, Stoke until Saturday 26th February 2022.

Buy tickets here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/9-to-5-the-musical/regent-theatre/

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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