Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton, book by Patricia Resnick, Directed by Jeff Calhoun
Review by Charlotte Smee
Based on the iconic movie and song of the same name and starring the queen of rhinestone country herself Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 the Musical is an adaptation firmly rooted in the colour, the glitter, and the casual misogyny of the 1980s. Complete with gigantic video-screen clock at the centre of the musical’s logo that plays clips of Dolly’s narration, this production is as gaudy and sparkling as you could ever want it to be.
For the uninitiated, 9 to 5 follows three leading ladies working in a grey office who are sick of their boss’s unreasonable demand and all-round disgusting behaviour. They get together after work one day and fantasise about killing him, tying him up like a prize pig or poisoning him. The next day Violet (Marina Prior) finds Mr Hart (Eddie Perfect) passed out in his chair, and after a series of hilarious events he ends up dangling from the ceiling, ball-gag in mouth. They make a series of changes in his absence, and show the world how equal pay and childcare at work are something women really deserve (and yet, here we still are…).
Some jokes and plotlines felt like I was watching a movie I loved as a young person, only to find out that they were problematic later.
The show starts with a version of exactly the song you’d expect; this time with Dolly’s floating face on a screen telling us about each of the lead characters along the way. This went on for longer than I thought it would and felt self-indulgent – but hey, when you’re Dolly Parton, the people want to see you on stage, and this was the next best thing. The huge 9 to 5 set piece unfortunately overshadowed the near perfect precision and energy of the ensemble and left even the leads fighting for their opening moments.
If 9 to 5 is gold carat fun, Casey Donovan as Judy shines in 24 carat gold. Her growling belts and incredible range in “Get Out and Stay Out”, mid-way through the second act, brought the entire audience to their feet in awe.
Caroline O’Connor as the lovestruck Roz to Eddie Perfect’s Mr Hart gave another standout performance. Reminiscent of Lucille Ball, her dedication to riding a potted plant like a horse and stripping down to showgirl lingerie only to hit her head on a leather lounge was positively hilarious. Ana Maria Belo as the office alcoholic Margaret also deserves a mention, stealing the focus whenever she was onstage.
With Patricia Resnick, writer of the original screenplay for 9 to 5, and Dolly making up two out of three billed creatives the musical is faithful to the plot and spirit of its inspiration, almost to a fault. Some jokes and plotlines felt like I was watching a movie I loved as a young person, only to find out that they were problematic later.
“One of the Boys” particularly felt inconsistent to the messages of the rest of the show, casting Violet as a masculine CEO who has finally shed her feminine skin to make it in business. While this might have been radical in 1980, it left me with a sour taste in 2022. Further, Violet finally finds a man after he’s hounded her for the whole show, ignoring her respectful “no” throughout.
9 to 5 is a visual marvel, with blocky beige computers framing the stage and flawlessly matched 1980s power suits galore. It is not, however, a theatrical marvel – it is saved only by the strength of the hilarious and powerful women cast to drag it into the 21st century.
9 to 5 the Musical plays at the Capitol Theatre until 1 May 2022. Find tickets here.