9 to 5 The Musical

November 18, 2019 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆  Packs ambition

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 12 – Sat 16 Nov 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s enough ambition delivered with sustained ability to get the blood pumpin’ in the touring production of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 the Musical, which is at the Playhouse through to Saturday.

Brasher and more lurid than the production which toured back in 2012, this latest take on the 1980 movie feels even more empowering than it did back then, as the trio of oppressed office workers Violet, Judy and Doralee take on their bosses – and win.

Louise Redknapp as Violet Newstead. Pic: Simon Turtle

Maybe it is the #MeToo movement that has made it feel like that. Or perhaps the whole idea of equal pay for equal work is so utterly obvious that it could not be otherwise – coupled with the fact that the notion still not universally applied.

It does help that Parton, whose video role as the narrator has been beefed up, adds a few acerbic quips that directly mock Donald Trump, even if she doesn’t go so far as naming him. All of which makes the glorious we’re-all-in-it-together, feel-good effect of the show even more up front.

Underneath all that up-beat optimism is a musical which flows brightly. The storytelling has a real snap and bite about as it it cut right back to the minimum necessary, while the company is superbly drilled, delivering Lisa Stevens’ choreography with an equal desire to help it serve the narrative.

depth and space

The three women at the heart of the show are given just enough depth and space to develop their characters and, while each is the kind person who you might easily dismiss from your friendship circle, the show allows us to understand and empathise with them.

Laura Tyrer is vocally strong and theatrically well defined as Violet Newstead, the widowed head of department at Consolidated Industries who has hit the glass ceiling.

Amber Davies as Judy Bernly. Pic: Simon Turtle

Amber Davies takes full advantage of scope afforded by Judy Bernly, the new woman at the office whose husband has just eloped with his secretary and who is taking on her first ever job – but whose deference to her husband has plenty of room to change over the course of the show.

But it is Georgina Castle as the curvaceous Doralee Rhodes, who spends her time fighting off the unwanted advances of sleazy boss Franklin Hart Jnr., who has the most glorious of the roles, as you might expect given it was the one Parton played in the movie. Castle plays right to the comedy of the role as she gets the best of Sean Needham’s slightly under-defined Hart.,

Louise Redknapp has been booked to play the role of Violet during the Edinburgh run but was ill on opening night. And although her fans might have missed Redknapp, Tyrer ensured that the production did not, giving a performance that had vocal assurance and a real sense of the character.

over simplistic understanding

Behind Hart’s power games and misogynistic jokes, there is an undertow of sexual tension, emphasised by office worker Roz’s infatuation for him – and her desire to do anything to please him. It’s an over-simplistic understanding of the nature of sex and power, but it certainly helps the comedy and Lucinda Lawrence ensures that your sympathies lie with her character, despite her betrayal of her work comrades.

Louise Redknapp as Violet Newstead. Pic: Simon Turtle

The whole production is compellingly staged, with Nina Dunn’s backdrop video design adding plenty of space in Tom Rogers design. The garland of grey VDUs which ring the proscenium arch is particularly nice touch, while the on-stage scenery is super-slick.

And yet, however much the feel-good effect might leave you leaping from your seat to punch the air in delight, there is a depth of nostalgia here, for a kind of capitalism that is fast disappearing in the gig economy.

The big payoff, when the trio get to run the office, is that they turn Hart’s ill-conceived patriarchy into something more understanding and suited to the needs of the workers. Somehow, while that might have been an achievable aspiration in the 1980s, it doesn’t feel that way now.

As damn fine nights out go, though, 9 to 5 the Musical with its big tunes, big ideas, big hair and big aspirations, is a place to escape and dream of breaking through the glass ceiling.

Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 November 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

9 to 5 The Musical on tour:
12 – 16 November 2019 Edinburgh
Playhouse
0844 871 3014 Book online
19 – 23 Nov 2019 Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
0818 719 377 Book online
Tour dates for 2020 (Casting to be announced):
9 – 13 June 2020 Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429212 Book online
22 – 27 June 2020 Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
29 June – 4 July 2020 Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
1 – 5 Sept 2020 Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234234 Book online
15 – 19 Sept 2020 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online

ENDS

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