9 to 5 the Musical Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester
Vibrating with colour, 9 to 5 is a dazzling comedy with an arsenal of original songs by the legendary queen of country, Dolly Parton. The live production serves the interests of Dolly fans and shoulder pads alike, with a reprisal of the 1980s film that merges sisterhood and solidarity under the banner of its Grammy-winning theme song.
The vigilante justice story has been successfully reincarnated into a television series that ran for 5 seasons, a stage show that first opened in 2009 and has an upcoming sequel to the film in the works. Grounded by a trio of secretaries, the story follows the unlikely heroines as their daydreams of getting even with their smug and sexist boss turns into a scheme to enact real revenge. Concocting fantasies that quickly begin to bleed onto the Palace theatre stage, the three independent women speak of equal pay for equal work, giving this story and their characters some weight within the playful comedy.
Held together by the Oscar, Grammy and Tony-nominated soundtrack, a string of euphemisms and the energetic vocals of its leads, this production simply wants to show people a good time. Refusing to shoehorn in her familiar hits, Dolly’s original music and lyrics performed by Louise Redknapp (Violet), Amber Davies (Judy) and Georgina Castle (Doralee), elevate the fantasy and expand on the impassioned pleas concerning gender imbalance.
The musical adaptation directed by Jeff Calhoun merges the multiple set pieces seamlessly with the addition of disco coloured staging and floor to ceiling screens that are worked alongside supersized office appliances spewing a nightmarish (yet believable) amount of paperwork. Together with songs like Backwoods Barbie and One of the Boys, that soften the edges of its source material, the show delivers a fanciful production teeming with energy.
Its pace is ramped up further by the second half as the women go all out to settle the score with their contemptuous boss Franklin Hart Jr. (played by Sean Needham). Needham’s scenery-chewing scenes leave him suspended in mid-air for much of the interval with the audience ensuring to add to the entertainment.
The glass ceiling has not yet been shattered, but 9 to 5’s marketplace feminism remains relatable 39 years after the film’s release. Justifying its frequent resurgences, the live stage show preserves the positive messaging of its original while uplifting audiences with its sparkling sense of humour.