If only we could all work 9 to 5.
Patricia Resnick, the writer of the hit movie released almost 30 years ago, summed it up when she said: “We’re all expected to be reachable and ready to work, 24 hours a day.” So this musical version has a nostalgic feel all of its own as soon as it begins.
The movie, which starred Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, was so successful it became the second highest grossing film of 1980 in the US.
The cast here is Louise Redknapp as Violet Newstead, the backbone of a busy office, Amber Davies as a newbie with heartache following her to the typing pool, and Georgina Castle as Doralee Rhodes, who is essentially Dolly Parton in secretary mode.
These three women are all very different but they realise that they all strive for the same thing – to be treated equally and to have equal pay.
Instead, Franklin Hart Jnr, their seedy but lovable boss – he’s gotta be, this is a fun musical – runs rings round them, without doing very much. He is flirty and suggestive, treats women like second class citizens and takes the credit for everything they achieve.
Sean Needham plays the boss and knows how to play this role and the audience. You have to go full on pantomime for it to work, as it’s based on a hit comedy film with added songs, not a Louis Theroux documentary on the gender pay gap.
The three women decide to get their own back on their horrible boss which leads to plenty of slapstick, some adult humour, a big joke aimed at Donald Trump to make it more contemporary, and big-hearted crowd-pleasing statements about the treatment of women in society.
This is a bright and breezy comedy which sometimes has the subtlety of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Like the film, it features a key plot development which makes the women almost as bad as the man they are trying to punish. But if they just fought back with their brains, there would be very little comedy value.
Jeff Calhoun’s production is filled with the songs of Dolly Parton so you are never far away from a sweet-sounding melody or a barnstorming ballad. Amber Davies delivers Get Out and Stay Out with full on emotion, as if answering all the doubters on twitter who thought this was stunt casting. She was on Love Island but has musical theatre training and it shows – she has great stage presence and knows how to deliver a funny line.
Louise Redknapp seems more comfortable during the musical numbers and the dance sections, but she also revels in the comedy. During the more dramatic scenes, she could do with more feeling, but she has good chemistry with Davies and Castle. Speaking of which, Georgina Castle does far more than impersonate Dolly Parton and has the silky soft vocals required.
Lucinda Lawrence has a great scene stealing moment as office workhorse Roz, who is not as uptight as she seems. The ensemble works incredibly hard and there are some great dancers here who rise to the challenge of Lisa Stevens’ joyful choreography.
9 to 5 is not ground breaking in any way and some the sexual politics does feel a tad like reading a car bumper sticker, with plenty of statements running through it and no more. And the addition of Dolly Parton on film, pointing out who is who and where we are up to is not really required and slows the plot down at times.
But this is a fun and harmless musical which reminds you of a time when the sexual politics were questionable but you could clock off from work and forget about your day.
The three performers who end up in charge seem to have a blast working 9 to 5. And so will you.