9 to 5 originally ran on Broadway 10 years ago with Megan Hilty, Stephanie J Block and Allison Janney in the leading roles. This was followed closely with a UK tour production, similar to the broadway production but with a few tweaks and song changes. What is amazing is that it has taken 10 years for the show to finally make it to the West End, ever since I first heard the cast recording I have been dying to see it come to London, I got my wish and it is running at the Savoy Theatre in a ‘strictly limited season’.
Inspired by the original 1980 film starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, 9 to 5 tells the story of three work colleagues who find themselves having to conjure up a plan whilst they kidnap their boss and take over the office, running it the way it should be.
The show is very relevant to whats going on in our world today; equality is a big factor to this show and its portrayed in such a crude way by Franklin Hart, Jr (played by Brian Conley) that it is shocking. Although the issues are important unfortunately the writing doesn't handle them in the best way, it comes across a little too crass when it could be a little more subtle. Franklin often tells random jokes over the course of the show that are sexist and they just feel like they’re in there for show and not for any contribution to the story.
In saying this, what we expect from this show is exactly what you get. With the nature of the piece, it is going to attract a less theatre originated audience and more of a ‘hen party’ kind of scene. Keeping this in mind, it does exactly what it needs to do.
The score, by Dolly Parton herself, is catchy and memorable. With some very Dolly style songs thrown in we can also enjoy some pure musical theatre songs too, Get Out and Stay Out has to be, in my opinion, one of the best songs in theatre.
This production has been moved from the 70’s into the 80’s and the design doesn't let you forget that. The set was very innovative, particularly the framing of the theatre with the computer desks. But the costumes were just a little too much, the 80’s style was very much thrown in your face throughout the whole thing. Often costumes would match for some unknown reason and looked very un-naturalistic.
Natalie McQueen is a star. She reminds you that this is a character and not an impersonation of Dolly herself. She manages to play the attributes of the character and adds so much of her own flare to it and with her brilliant comic timing, its a recipe for success. And on top of this, her voice is to die for. Her rendition of Backwards Barbie was by far one of the standout numbers of the show.
Caroline Sheen plays the role of Violet, originally played by Lily Tomlin. She has clearly studied Tomlin and her portrayal of the character, not so much thats she’s copied her but she has the comedy element of the character down to a T! She brings a sarcastic and humorous side to the role whilst also bringing heart and vulnerability to it. Caroline leaves the show on the 23rd March where Louise Redknapp takes over the role. She sure has big shoes to fill, thats for sure!
Amber Davies, from Love Island fame, plays the role originally played by Jane Fonda, Judy. Its slightly confusing that the point of the character is that she’s meant to have been a housewife for so long that she doesn't know how to fend for herself, although the part has been made 21 to suit Davies. It slightly takes away from the characters depth and we look at her more as a young, privileged rich girl rather than a struggling divorcee. But taking this all into consideration, Amber does do a good job in the role. Her vocals prove she is not just from a reality show but is a true musical theatre performer. I worry that her acting choices may be missed in a theatre this size, although I could see the cogs going I’m not sure anyone 5 rows back will see the same.
Bonnie Langford returns after having previously played the role of Roz in the UK Tour of the show in 2012, she proves why she is West End royalty in this show. Her voice could challenge anyone in Theatre Land and her high kicks are in true Strallen Family style.
Franklin Hart Jnr, is played by Brian Conley. Although I struggled to understand what he was singing or saying at times, he is very good in this role and really embraces the mean side of him.
I must mention Christopher Jordan Marshall, who plays Joe, Violets love interest. His performance was really sweet and he showcased some beautiful vocals.
Although this isn’t really an ensemble heavy show, when they were on it was slick and exciting. Special mentions to Victoria Anderson and Natasha Mould, I couldn't take my eyes off both of them.
I realise I have unpicked this show a little however with the type of show it is and how it is presented, it actually does exactly what it says on the tin. Everything you’d want from a show like this, you get in this production.
Its an uplifting show with catchy and memorable music. And to be honest, its two hours of escapism from this world. Which is exactly what this country needs right now.
This may be a limited run but I have a feeling it might be hanging around for a little longer.
Review by Mark Swale
Seat: Dress Circle, B4 | Price of Ticket: £77.50