Quick Change Review: 9 To 5 (Tour)
There’s power suits, powerful voices and a message about power.
But there's something about the show that makes it feel more Wednesday afternoon than 5pm on a Friday.
The musical is based on the comedy movie of the same name; written by and starring country legend, Dolly Parton. Its rollicking humour and cheeky rebellion to smash the patriarchy has made the movie a cult reference led by its very own anthem.
Image by Pamela Raith
Life working at Consolidated Industries is repetitive, unrewarding, and full of injustice. Led by the villainous Franklin Hart Jr (Sean Needham), the office is stripped of personality and freedom instead forcing workers to complete unfulfilling tasks but expecting top devotion and efficiency.
Among these workers are Violet (Louise Redknapp) i.e. business boss, Doralee (Stephanie Chandos) who is thought of as the office bimbo, and new girl Judy (Vivian Panka) who’s shy and coy.
Supporting the leading ladies are the resident office jobsworth, Roz (Julia J Nagle), and a woman so heavily addicted to alcohol that I barely remember her name or her purpose in this tale.
Each woman is reduced to a line of backstory and unfortunately, we see more dimension in their 'dos than their personalities.
Perhaps due to the lack of emotional attachment, the songs don’t quite hit the mark for me. In the moment they do the job; ‘Around Here’ is uplifting and fast, and ‘One of the Boys’ is seductively cabaret, but none are show-stoppers to play on the ride home.
That’s not to say that the performances aren’t stellar and the energy isn't there. When the three leads come together, they are a joy to watch. They share spliffs and giggles, beautiful harmonies in fighting songs, and moments of tenderness as they support both each other’s individual journeys but also a fight for something bigger.
Image by Pamela Raith
When word gets round of docked pay packets, sexual allegations and a missed promotion, the women get themselves caught up kidnapping their egotistical and predatory superior. The show follows them as they give Hart a taste of his own medicine, by humiliating him and exposing his sins.
It’s a brilliant story that is so outwardly ridiculous and self-aware of that fact. The book talks candidly about sex and kinks, drugs, and motherhood, as well as the glass ceiling. It has great potential to give dignity to women audiences and fill them with empowerment. But unfortunately, its humour isn’t as intelligent.
Slapstick comedy, and obvious gags feel unoriginal and shoehorned in for cheap laughs. The delivery is pantomime farce and albeit done well, in places the content feels dated. There are moments of amusing delight; of course, the bondage scene that leads to the interval, and Roz’s seduction in the office.
A large ensemble leaves the stage feeling cramped, the levels a little too high, and dwarves the choreography and individual characterisation. This however doesn’t take away from the imaginative set, lively retro lighting, and gorgeous bold styling – we’re talking abstract lines, shoulder pads and garish office couture - that is consistent throughout the show.
At times, I was so close to getting that Friday feeling. I wanted to cheer for our heroes and laugh aloud. Unfortunately, overall it was just another day at the office.
9 To 5 The Musical plays at Theatre Royal Nottingham to 30th October before continuing on tour.