Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London – until 30 September 2017
9 to 5 the musical is a show I am extremely familiar with, I always feel that it’s the ultimate feel-good show and extraordinarily empowering to women in a tongue in cheek way! No wonder, really, given that it’s essentially a Dolly Parton show. Indeed 9 to 5 is surely the track that most people associate with Ms Parton.
9 to 5 the musical is based on the popular film and features an uplifting selection of musical theatre numbers, an excellent showcase for the actresses taking the lead roles. This particular production of the show has been produced and directed by Joe Hodges and it is without doubt the best incarnation I have seen. Although the space at the theatre is limited, the best use has been made of it with a set which blends into the background, allowing the performers to lead the action. Chris Whittaker’s choreography is slick, engaging, eye-catching, doesn’t shy away from technical splendour and works brilliantly in the space.
The story revolves around three ladies who work for Consolidate, from 9 to 5! Violet (Pippa Winslow), a widowed single mum who’s ambition is to be CEO of the company, Doralee (Louise Olley), glamorous ‘dolly bird’ who is a ‘Backwoods Barbie’ and wholly misunderstood and Judy (Amanda Coutts), a divorcee-to-be who has never been employed before. Their boss, Mr Hart (Leo Sene) is a chauvinist and egotist of the highest order, he’s dismissive of Violet, rude to Judy and regularly trying it on with Doralee, even though she’s happily married. Add into the mix, Roz (Samantha Giffard) who worships the ground that the boss walks on, and sneaks around to over-hear conversations and snitch on her colleagues. When a Marijuana-induced daydream of Violet’s almost comes to fruition courtesy of rat poison versus sweetener, the three women find themselves in an unbelievable situation, with their boss held hostage and they ship Roz off to France for good measure.
Leo Sene is superbly creepy, snivelling and easy to despise – he makes the character his own and has powerful vocal ability. Amanda Coutts is perfectly cast as Judy, perpetual worrier, quoting trivia when she’s nervous and Coutts has an incredible solo in act two – “Get Out, Stay Out” which she almost spits at her ex husband, what a performance de force! Louise Olley as Doralee puts in the right balance of Dolly Parton (who played Doralee in the film) and her own spin on the character. She’s sweet with an edge and “Backwoods Barbie” is one of the highlights of the show, such a beautiful musical number which plays to Olley’s many strengths. Pippa Winslow as Violet is a match made in musical theatre heaven. Not only does Winslow sing and dance (en pointe, too!) to an outstanding, show-stealing standard – she gives the character substance and appropriately underplays her part at times. The trio of ladies have a believable on-stage chemistry which moves the show along fluidly. Samantha Giffard must also be commended on an excellent comedy performance as Roz, not too over the top but just enough manic going on to cause her to stand out for all of the right reasons.
Miss this show at your peril, watching it on a small-scale will alter your perception of the story, the intricacies are laid bare and a stronger, tighter ensemble you will be hard-pushed to find. It’s a feel-good master-piece and I would gladly watch it over and over again.