9 to 5 began life as a 1980 comedy film starring Dolly Parton; who then took the story of three frustrated female office workers to Broadway in 2009 with this musical version featuring music and lyrics by the country queen herself. It is charming, feel-good, and tongue-in-cheek, if a little clunky in its execution.
Fans of the Broadway version will notice significant changes to the script and score that were brought in for the 2012 UK Tour; which sees four songs cut (“Dance with Death”, “Cowgirls Revenge”, “Potion Notion”, and “Joy to the Girls”) to be replaced with one odd Arethra Franklin-quoting song “Hey Boss”. With further cuts to many of the ensemble characters and changes to Judy’s motivation through the show, it tunnel-visions onto Violet’s story in a way that does a disservice to the rest of its cast.
The cast is led by celeb Louise Redknapp as Violet; an intelligent and hardworking widowed mother who dreams of being a CEO. Parts of her performance are truly excellent, and her main number “One of the Boys” is a stand-out within the show. Despite her clean vocals and stage presence, she is let down by a garbled American accent that is at times completely unintelligible; a real shame as she has some excellent lines that were lost in translation. Newcomer Vivian Panka is a charming and lovable office new-girl Judy Bernly, and her voice is a delight; “Get Out and Stay Out” is goosebump-inducing. Stephanie Chandos completes the lead trio as country Barbie-doll Doralee. She achieves a stellar Parton imitation throughout and is hilarious in her physical comedy, though again some of her jokes miss the mark purely due to accent difficulties.
Perhaps the stand out performance is Julia J Nagle as Roz; the sneaking personal secretary to the big boss. Her comic timing and physicality are outstanding, and she shows more range on stage than any other performer is given opportunity to. “Heart to Hart” will have audiences rolling with laughter and earned perhaps the largest applause of the evening.
Sean Needham is brilliant as big boss Franklin Hart; the character is irredeemably awful with his squirm-inducing misogyny and Needham is able to have a lot of fun in pushing the boundaries of his sex-charged solo “Here For You”. He delivers a character the audience can love to hate and rally behind the mutinying trio as they serve his comeuppance.
What does feel lacking is the involvement of the ensemble; mostly relegated to disembodied voices singing from the wings or moving scenery. When the full cast is on stage the energy is fantastic, and it would be nice to have more of those moments throughout.
This is a great show, and it is likely that issues with accents, slow scene changes and other pacing issues will be ironed out as the cast and crew find their groove as the tour continues. Despite them, audiences will certainly be clapping and singing along at the finale and cheering on the girls throughout their stories.
9 to 5 continues at The New Wimbledon Theatre until the 23rd of October, and will then continue its UK tour to Nottingham, Liverpool, Sunderland, Birmingham, Inverness and Plymouth, with casting yet to be announced for further locations in 2022.