Savoy Theatre, London – until 31 August 2019
Its almost 40 years since Violet, Judy, Doralee and their misogynistic boss made their way to screens in the film 9 To 5. The musical adaptation by film creator Patricia Resnick shows that whilst times have changed, unfortunately many of the issues are still prevalent and feel very relevant during the Trump era and #MeToo movement.
Despite what you may think, this is not a jukebox musical and apart from the world hit ‘9 to 5’, many of the songs are forgettable although being pleasing to listen to at the time. The arrangements by Stephen Oremus, Alex Lacamoire and Mark Crossland are pretty and Lisa Stevens’ buoyant choreography keeps the momentum of the show going but the music itself is not the highlight.
However, Jeff Calhoun’s West End production features a fantastic cast who perform Dolly Parton’s score with vigour and drive. Natalie McQueen completely shines as Dolly’s character, Doralee Rhodes. Funny, feisty and a vocal powerhouse, McQueen brings life to the role and provides a memorable moment with ‘Backwards Barbie’. Amber Davies is charming as the naive Judy Bernly who finds herself throughout the show. Whilst her acting is somewhat lacking at times, Davies retains her charisma and gives a lovely performance of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’.
Caroline Sheen brings a light to the show as the strong and capable, Violet Newstead. Together the three ladies are a real force as they take drastic measures to stop their sexist boss, Franklin Hart Jnr (played comedically by Brian Conley) from blackmailing them. The real show stealer is Bonnie Langford as Hart’s devoted assistant who is completely wonderful is her unrequited love for her CEO. Her high-kicking, leg-splitting performance of ‘Heart to Hart’ is impressive beyond belief and utterly hilarious.
This is a crowd pleasing production that, with a second act of only 45 minutes, flies by with a flash of hair, power-suits and feminism. There’s no denying that the principles are dated and it’s more of a period piece than a modern inspirational tale to live by, but it does provide a laugh. Whilst being set in the 80s, the various nods to 2019 allow it to feel more relatable. 9 To 5 is a feel-good show, helmed by powerful performers who allow you to ignore the shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is: a load of female led fun.