9 to 5 The Musical

Sep 15 2021 | By More

★★★★☆  Fit for work

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 14 – Sat 18 Sept 2021
Review by Thom Dibdin

After 545 days of darkness, the Playhouse stage lit up last night with a crisp and swinging production of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 The Musical, which is playing through to Saturday.

Last seen on this stage just 22 months ago (★★★★☆ Packs ambition), this is still a production which has oomph and passion coming out of its ears, thanks to a big, strong and dedicated chorus on stage and an equally crisp band in the pit. And with Louise Redknapp now joined by Vivian Panka and Stephanie Chandos there is also space for a spot of reflection.

Vivian Panka, Louise Redknapp and Stephanie Chandos. Pic: Pamela Raith

Set in the greedy quagmire of 1980s corporate America, where the gains of feminism in the Sixties and Seventies had yet to permeate through to the commercial world, 9 to 5 strikes a powerful and entertaining blow for female empowerment.

Violet is a secretary in a big company, Consolidated, who is constantly passed over for promotion. Doralee is PA to their boss, Franklin Hart Jnr – everyone assumes she is also his mistress. Recent divorcee Judy is just starting work in the office, despite never having had an office job before.

All three have plenty of reasons to dislike Hart and when the opportunity to get their own back turns from a pipe dream to their only viable option, they take to the job with increasing relish.

team player

This is a show which needs a trio of women at the top who are prepared to work together. There is perhaps a little understatement to Louise Redknapp as Violet – not quite the snap and crackle you might want at the outset – but she gets there in the end and is certainly a team player here, working with her co-stars rather than trying to rise above them.

Sean Needham and Stephanie Chandos. Pic: Pamela Raith

Vivian Panka easily convinces with Judy’s self-deprecation and lack of confidence – but when called on to give her lungs an airing in her big second act number, Get Out and Stay Out, she demonstrates considerable musical chops.

Stephanie Chandos takes the prime role of Doralee, which Dolly Parton played in the original movie. And there is no faulting Chandos, who gives one of those controlled yet heartfelt performances that just zings with anticipation and understanding.

Chandos’ scene with Sean Needham as Franklin Hart, in which he is attempting to look up her dress and down her cleavage, is superbly done. Needham gives Hart a certain authority – not the wimp as he is sometimes portrayed – making it all the more edgy. While Chandos ensures that there is never any doubt that Doralee is in complete control of the situation.

punctilious attitude

Giving Hart a shade more of a rounded character also helps the storytelling in terms of office gossip Roz who, beneath her uptight facade, is utterly besotted with the boss. Julia J Nagle has the punctilious attitude necessary for the role, although there is a slightly held-back feel to the physical comedy in Roz’s hilarious break-out number, Heart to Hart.

Julia J Nagle. Pic: Pamela Raith

Besides all its ebullience and heart-on-the-sleeve celebration of female power, which comes as a given, 9 to 5 is also a brilliant choice of musical with which to break the long, Covid-induced fast, when our nights were devoid of live entertainment.

The themes inherent in the show – of building a better working environment, of levelling up between the men and women in the workplace and giving everyone a chance to fight their own demons – resonate clearly with consideration over the last 18 months of how we can come back better.

Primarily, however, this is a great night out. You can be picky with its nuances, but everywhere you look – or listen – there are professionals doing what they do best. From individuals such as Manolo Poladario’s lap steel guitar on the Country numbers, to the dance precision of the full ensemble in practically every number, they are a welcome delight.

a smooth operation

All praise, too, to the Playhouse staff. While others might be carping at the problems of rolling out a vaccine passport system, the Playhouse is getting on with the job of running a smooth operation while keeping everyone safe.

The announcements about masking up are both loud and clear, while the checking of vaccine status for all ages at the door is as quickly and easily done as the bag and ticket check. It’s good to be back.

Running time: Two hours and 25 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 September 2021
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Touring to Glasgow in January 2022:

Glasgow King’s Theatre, 297 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JN
Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 January 2022
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

The Company. Pic Pamela Raith


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Comments (1)

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  1. Isabell Watters says:

    It was absolutely diabolical. You could make out what they were singing.
    I’ve never walked out in any show yet but I did last night in Edinburgh.
    If it had been on the tv I would have turned it off.
    We have to stay in a hotel when we come to Edinburgh to the shows.
    If I could have as for my money back I would have.