9 to 5

Clockwise Top Left: Natalie McQueen; Bonnie Langford; Amber Davis; Caroline Sheen with co-stars. Photos by Pamela Raith 

Savoy Theatre.  Booking until August.

This is a fun, crowd-pleaser of a musical that will have everyone up and dancing for the encore (of the title song).

If you know the film, then you know the plot and the characters. Although a few shortcuts have been made (we lose the cop scene with the body in the boot, sadly but understandably hard to re-create on stage), we don’t loose any of the comic drama.

We’re still set in the 1980s and a videoed intro by Dolly herself sets the period and introduces us to the characters we know but obviously don’t recognise in the guise of Caroline Sheen (Violet aka Lilly Tomlin in the film), Amber Davis (Judy aka Jane Fonda) and Natalie McQueen (aka Dolly).

The themes of misogyny, workplace harassment and women banding together to fight oppression necessarily has a current resonance. Which in many ways makes this a bit of a depressing watch. The opening scene where Hart (Brian Connolly who manages to land the sleaze / comedy balance well) chases Doralee around the office, frankly made my skin crawl. And I half hoped there would be some updating.

We get a few contemporary nods – jokes about equal pay and women CEOs (tongues firmly in cheeks) – as well as a scene in the office kitchen where the women eye up one of the guys in the office. But otherwise we’re firmly in 1980 – including the fashions, furniture and attitudes.

Songs penned by Dolly give us some further understanding of characters and their emotional state. Stand out for me was ‘Backwards Barbie’, in which the character of Doralee gives a heartfelt plea for society to not judge a book by its cover. ‘Shine Like the Sun’ brings our three protagonists ganging up together and works well giving us the crescendo to take us into the interval.  Violet’s ‘One of the Boys’ and Judy’s ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ are good solid tunes, very much in the traditional musical mould with ‘Change It’ giving us an anthemic tune for Act II.

Bonnie Langford who plays the company spy to Hart, gets a show-stealing scene and song, ‘Heart to Hart’, where her (frankly unfathomable) lust for Hart is given full vent!

Natalie McQueen does a brilliant job as Doralee – both in belting out the songs, the look and the southern drawl.

For me this was a hugely enjoyable night out. It has weaknesses though, one purely in the depressing nature of how far we haven’t come in terms of equality, the other though is in a lack of ambition in terms of staging and songs. Overall I would say it is a safe musical. And whilst I know it will do incredibly well, and deservedly so, those seeking something more challenging surely know there is more on offer.

February 6 (Stalls D2-3)


February Picks

img_8991So for February I’ve got the following plays booked up:

9 to 5 The Musical @ Savoy Theatre – the classic comedy film from 80s brought to life as a musical with songs by Dolly Parton, this couldn’t get much camper if it tried!

Berberian Sound Studio @ Donmar Warehouse – probably couldn’t get more of a contrast in film adaptations with Peter Strickland’s darkly comic horror coming to the stage.

Jesus Hopped the A Train @ Young Vic – hoping the combination of the dark comedy set on murderers’ row, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, will maintain the Young Vic’s impressive new season.

Shipwreck @ Almeida – new play by the tremendous Anne Washburn (Mr Burns will never ever leave me!) and directed by Artistic Director Rupert Goold.

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other @ National Theatre – the ballot-only production with Cate Blanchett that had sold out is now garnering some terrible reviews! Oh well only one way to find out if this is a turkey is to see it myself.

Gently Down the Stream @ Park Theatre is a new play by Martin Sherman who wrote the award-winning play Bent.

And I’m still yet to get around to book the following:

Nine Night @ Trafalgar Studios – having failed to squeeze this in at the end of last year I’ve got to get to see it before it ends its run on 23 February.

The Son @ Kiln – the UK premiere of the latest play from the prolific and intriguing playwright Florian Zeller (The Mother, The Father, The Truth, The Height of the Storm) – I’ve seen every one produced in London over the last few years.

Pinter 7 @ Harold Pinter Theatre – having seen all but Pinter 4 so far, it would be quite nice to add this one with Martin Freeman and Danny Dyer, but we’ll see.