Inspired by the 1980 movie of the same title, ‘9 to 5’ is a pure girl power musical that thrilled audiences during its West End run before the pain in the neck that is covid came along and cut the London run and the previous UK Tour short. But now its back and hitting the road again in a new fresh tour, bringing sass, attitude and comedy by the bucket loud to audiences up and down the country. This week the tour has hit sea city with a week long stop at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, attracting musical theatre fans from both sides of the Tamar.
‘9-5’ tells the story of three office workers, supervisor Violet (Louise Redknapp), secretary Doralee (Stephanie Chandos) and new girl Judy Bernly (Vivian Panka) as they fight for equal treatment and a better working life against their girl loving, men’s club loving boss Franklin Hart Jr (Sean Needham). With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, there’s plenty of music to get stuck in your head and Patricia Resnick’s book is crammed full of wit and humour that creates characters you love and characters that you simply love to hate.
The three leading ladies are sassy and fierce. Redknapp’s Violet Newstead wants nothing more than the promotion that she feels she has earned, and whilst a series of events may cause things to spiral a little bit out of control for her, she knows that she can change life in the office for the better with the help of Doralee and Judy. Chando’s Doralee earns many a laugh as she firmly puts Mr Hart in his place on numerous occasions with her rendition of ‘Backwards Barbie’ impressing greatly. Vivian Panka, making her UK stage debut, shines as new girl Judy, shy and out of her depth at first but once taken under the wings of Violet and Doralee, Judy finds her inner strength and helps to change things for the better in the office whilst bettering her own life too. Her act 2 number ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ got one of the biggest applauses of the night.
The UK Touring cast of 9 To 5 performing on BBC Children in Need
Sean Needham’s Franklin Hart jr was an audience favourite, and this is a character that you definitely love to hate. He loves being in charge, loves bossing his workers around and feels invincible as he gets away with promoting people Violet trained over her and harassing Doralee on a daily basis, even going as far as to create a rumour that makes everyone else in the office shun her. He had the audience in stitches throughout, especially in the closing moments of the first act (no spoilers here). Julia J Nagle also impressed as Hart’s assistant/company spy Roz, doting on him endlessly and doing everything that she possibly can to please him.
The ensemble play multiple roles throughout, with Russel Dickson’s kind hearted accountant Joe showing the good side of the men in this office and Sarah-Marie Maxwell’s alcoholic office worker Margaret earning many a laugh. This production is high energy from start to end, with the ensemble making it look easy to jump from once dance routine to another, with ‘One of the Boys’ proving a particular highlight.
If I have to nitpick a little bit, I have to admit that the music was perhaps a little on the loud side, especially in ‘9 to 5’, ‘Around Here’ and ‘Shine like the Sun’. This was a shame as it caused some of the harmonies to become a little bit lost under the music which when combined with high energy dance routines did mean that you lost some of the lyrics.
Overall, ‘9 to 5’ is a fun night out, although covering some serious topics such as pay equality, harassment and relationships, it isn’t afraid to laugh at itself and have fun with it. It’s over the top and full of energy, and is guaranteed to send you home with a song stuck in your head.
Tour information for ‘9 to 5’ can be found here