Review – 9 to 5 The Musical

Nov 27 2012 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Bouncing with ambition

Edinburgh Playhouse: 26 Nov – 1 Dec 2012
Review by Thom Dibdin

Crisply packaged and bouncing with ambition, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 – the Musical has the odds stacked in its favour as it strides purposefully into the Playhouse this week.

Here are a bundle of great songs, a book which zings from workplace infighting, to smoking pot, to pouring rat poison in the boss’s coffee without pause for breath – and a slew of fine performances that peak with Bonnie Langford hitting her high-note while hanging upside down.

Big pink lusciousness abounds in the final flourish of Sexist Egotistical Lying Hypocritical Bigot. Photo: Simon Annand

This is the story of a group of women who rise up against their chauvinist pig of a boss – as we used to call them in the Seventies. And in the Seventies – well, 1979 – is emphatically where this feel-good piece of fun is set.

Just look at the flick on that big hair, ogle the check on those trousers and that jacket, marvel at the width of those lapels and swoon over those awesome striped tank-tops. Quite takes one back. And take it from someone who was there, the styles are spot on.

So, too, are the attitudes. Principally that of prime sleazeball, the aforesaid chauvinist pig or, as the musical has it, the “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a man which is Franklyn J Hart, played with exactly the right level of misplaced, over-sexed machismo by Ben Richards.

Of course Hart’s unreconstructed attitudes haven’t disappeared over the last 30 years, it’s just they are writ large enough here to be the target of mockery.

And mocking it is exactly what the musical does, with a glorious sense of retribution well earned. He’s a whipping boy for all the small-minded, sexist no-marks who have always existed and still do.

The trio of women who lead the glorious retribution are led by Jackie Clune’s hardworking widow Violet Newstead who Hart won’t let past the level of supervisor at Consolidated Companies. Clune has a smashing voice for the role and the solidly commanding stage presence required.

Delivers on the comedy in spades…

Under her wing comes Natalie Casey’s nervous divorcee Judy Bernley. She’s never worked before and becomes the butt of Hart’s most scathing and bullying attacks. Casey delivers on the comedy in spades, with a great sense of timing and enough musical knowledge to make a song work, however she chooses to deliver it.

Bonnie Langford as Roz Keith, just at the point of going stratospheric in Heart to Hart. Photo: Simon Annand

Amy Lennox takes on the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the film of busty, bubbly – and bright with it – Doralee Rhodes. She puts up with Hart’s unsubtle attempts to look down her cleavage and up her skirt because she needs the job. But when she discovers he has been telling everyone they have been having an affair, it’s a step too far.

If the wigs and costumes are pure Seventies, the set never tries too hard to be. It’s more functional, allowing the scenery to shift quickly, as the improbable kidnap plot falls out.

The first half is a succession of great numbers and individual  performances backed by a decent sized ensemble of 18, who have a real snap to their routines and delivery.

Richards’ performance of Here For You – Hart’s daydream about Doralee – oozes slime and lust as it slips into a fantasy world as she sits taking dictation at his desk.

But it is nothing to Bonnie Langford, who plays Roz Keith, Hart’s long-suffering uptight assistant who has the hots for him. Her big routine in Heart to Hart is all raunch and outrageously writhing contortion in a tango that would have Bruno Tonioli’s eyes out – while still delivering the words with every innuendo perfectly exposed.

Against that, the big pink lusciousness of the ensemble routine of Sexist Egotistical Lying Hypocritical Bigot doesn’t quite have the finesse. It’s great stuff as Judy, Doralee and Violet outline their fantasy methods of despatching Hart, and the designer has had a great time turning everything pink, but as a number in a musical it still has room to grow.

Against such a succession of Wow! moments, the second half feels a trifle pale by comparison. Of course Hart’s comeuppance is worth waiting for, but none of the numbers really have the passion of the first half until Natalie Casey gets to deliver Judy’s big kiss-off to her returning husband.

And of course, Dolly Parton fans will be itching for the final number in which the power of Dollyvision allows Parton – who has previously added a not-quite justifiable narrator role – to lead the cast and audience in a rousing rendition of the title song.

A great, life-affirming and grin-inducing night out.

Run ends Saturday 1 December 2012
2 hours 30 mins
Edinburgh Playhouse, daily 7.30pm (2.30pm Wed, Sat).



26 Nov – 1 Dec Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
3 – 8 Dec Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
10 – 15 Dec Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
17 Dec 2012
– 5 Jan 2013
New Alexandra Theatre
0844 871 3011 Book online
8 – 12 Jan Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
14 – 19 Jan Liverpool
0844 871 3017 Book online
21 – 26 Jan Dublin
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
0818 719 377
Book online
28 Jan – 2 Feb Bromley
Churchill Theatre
0844 871 7620 Book online
4 – 9 Feb York
Grand Opera House
0844 871 3024 Book online
11 – 16 Feb Richmond
Richmond Theatre
0844 871 7651 Book online
18 – 23 Feb Torquay
Princess Theatre
0844 871 3023 Book online
25 Feb – 2 Mar Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
4 – 9 Mar Milton Keynes
0844 871 7652 Book online
11 – 16 Mar Truro
Hall For Cornwall
01872 262466 Book online
18 – 23 Mar Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
8 – 13 Apr Swansea
Grand Theatre
01792 475715 Book online
29 Apr – 4 May Southampton
Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
13 – 18 May Wolverhampton
The Grand Theatre
01902 429212 Book online
27 May – 1 Jun Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
10 – 15 Jun Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
24 – 29 Jun Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641 122 Book online
8 – 13 Jul Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online


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