Note: This review is for the 2021 UK tour of 9 to 5.
Dolly Parton’s smash hit musical returns to the Alexandra Theatre direct from rave reviews and sold out shows on the West End and I couldn’t have been more excited. I was lucky enough to see the show just over 2 years ago on the same stage so I already knew that it was going to be a good night.
Based on the 1980 film starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, the show has an Oscar, Grammy and Tony award-nominated score by Dolly Parton herself, and a book by the iconic movie’s original screenwriter Patricia Resnick.
Louise Redknapp was once again in the role of Violet – the smart senior office administrator who longs to become a female CEO in a world where women are primarily overlooked. If it is at all possible, her performance was even better than the last – I am always impressed with her ability to command the stage with her lovely vocals and self-assured confidence and presence (and she still doesn’t look like she has aged since the 90’s).
The role of Judy was played by Vivian Panka, a young and naive 21 year old who has to get her first job after her husband leaves her for his secretary. This is Panka’s first role on the UK stage and she did a fantastic job, being able to demonstrate Judy’s transition from sweet and unsure to confident and assertive as the show progresses with seeming ease and a gorgeous voice.
Stephanie Chandos was able to channel her inner Dolly in the role of Doralee – Dolly’s role in the original movie – with sass, charm and a thick country accent to boot.
Together, the three women join forces to make a change in their working environment, inadvertently kidnapping their boss and holding him hostage. The role of chauvinist boss Franklin Hart Jnr was played by cover (understudy) Richard Taylor Woods, and he was completely fabulous, stealing the show on multiple occasions with hilarious comic timing and (as I mentioned before), the ability to act and sing brilliantly while suspended from the ceiling in some rather compromising leather outfits. He is joined by Roz, the office spy played by Julia J Nagle. Another fabulous performance, particularly when expressing her unrequited love of Franklin in her underwear which had the audience in stitches. Utterly brilliant.
I loved the set before and I still do – with the stage being framed by computers and bright colours that are synonymous of the 1980s – the set changes are simple and slick. Dolly fans will be delighted to know that she makes several appearances throughout in the form of pre-recorded video sections, displayed in the middle of a clock that forms the ‘O’ of 9 to 5, and her dialogue is representative of events over the last 5 years within American politics.
While the setting of the show is over 40 years old and the storyline is emphasised for the stage, the themes behind it are very much relevant, and powerful points of female empowerment and equality had the audience cheering in response.
9 to 5 is an absolute must-watch, and an evening of guaranteed fun and frolics that will leave you singing the title song all the way home. I can’t wait to watch it again.