Savoy Theatre, London – until 31 August 2019
Musical theatre comedy done well is a blissful way to spend an evening. So it is with Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, currently playing to packed houses at the Savoy Theatre.
Set in 1980s corporate America the plot is an unbelievable humbug that sees three focused, driven women kidnap their boorish, misogynist boss with everything leading to a deliriously happy ending. But while the story may be a fictional fable, the show’s themes are sadly timeless – and to that end, while Parton my have set Patricia Resnick’s book to music nearly 40 years ago, the show’s themes of workplace inequality and sexual harassment are as true today as they ever were.
So what makes such a potentially grim scenario such a banging night at the theatre? Parton’s cracking songs, delivered by a perfect cast. Caroline Sheen leads the line, as Violet, an overlooked female executive. In a tough role that doesn’t offer much comical caricature potential, Sheen is magnificent. Beautifully voiced as ever, she drives the story’s narrative.
Parton is as famous for her physique as for her country and western singer/songwriter talents – and it falls to Natalie McQueen as Doralee to capture the legendary statuesque Parton persona. McQueen rises to the challenge fabulously, never better than in her poignant solo ‘Backwoods Barbie’.
Third in the lineup is Amber Davies’ Judy playing a young dumped bride finding her way in the workplace. Both Davies and McQueen capture the comic essentials of their characters with an impressive avoidance of cliche – top work from all three.
The supporting roles are equally flawless in their delivery of cracking comedy. Brian Conley is the women’s monstrous employer turning in an assured performance as a man with no redeeming features whatsoever other than an awesome stage presence and impeccable comic timing. Opposite Conley, Bonnie Langford plays Roz, his harridan henchperson. Langford’s talent is breathtaking as she transitions from brusque, bunned busybody to basque-clad temtptress in her sensational solo piece ‘Heart To Hart’, with an elegant litheness that has to be seen to be believed.
And all credit to the show’s creatives. Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Lisa Stevens pack the stage with colour and movement, while Howard Hudson’s lighting and Nina Dunn’s video projections make the stage itself as entertaining as the perfomances. Under Andrew Hilton’s baton, the eight piece band are an equal delight.
9 to 5 is perfectly played, unpretentious fun and one of the funniest feel-good shows in town.
Booking until 31st August