9 to 5 at New Wimbledon Theatre
9 to 5 hit the West End in 2019 after having previously toured the UK from as early as 2012. It was one of the many shows to be hit by Covid and closed in the West End during lockdown. However it soon announced that it would be touring the UK and I was lucky enough to see it at New Wimbledon Theatre for their gala night.
With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and the book by Patricia Resnick the show tells of 3 women who work at Consolidated Industries for Mr Franklin Hart Jnr. Violet, played by Louise Redknapp has worked there for many years however she is always looked over for promotion as she is not ‘One of the Boys.’ Judy, played by Vivian Panka who has just been left by her husband, forcing her into the world of work and finally Doralee, played by Stephanie Chandos, a busty blonde who is perused by Hart despite her best efforts to brush him off. The women forge an unlikely friendship, united in their hatred for Hart and find along the way that they can make positive changes for the other women in the office .
The show is incredibly fun with plenty of laughter, full out song and dance numbers and visual gags such as Hart dressed in full bondage gear suspended from the ceiling (!!) but there is also a more serious underlying message to the show. The show provides plenty of commentary on women in the workplace in the 80’s and when one of the cast comments that this hopefully won’t even be a conversation in 10 years time this is a stark reminder that whilst matters have progressed there is still a way to go.
The actor that plays Franklin Hart Jnr has to be so completely sexist and chauvinistic that the audience revel in what Violet, Judy and Doralee do to him. Sean Needham took this role and he was brilliantly vile as Hart causing me to cringe and really despite the character, which was exactly what was needed for this role.
Redknapp played Violet and showed so much growth in the character, allowing me to see a real warmth behind Violet’s professional exterior. Chandos as Doralee was immediately likeable and reminsicence of Dolly herself without trying to be an impression. Finally Panka as Judy ha a real innocence about her although I would have liked to have seen her let go more with ‘Get Out And Stay Out.’ Between the 3 of them there was a real chemistry and they were a delight to watch on stage together.
The biggest departure in character choice from the West End production was Julia J Nagle as Roz Keith, the employee obsessed with Franklin Hart Jnr and one of the few women he didn’t have designs on. In the west end, apart from the fact that she was older than the rest of her colleagues I struggled to understand why Hart wasn’t going for Roz as she (Bonnie Langford playing it at the Savoy) dropped into the splits mid song. Nagle made Roz far more awkward and in doing so made sure that there was no sex appeal to this character.
The show manages to flit very successfully between big solo ballads and then by contrast company numbers but each moment on stage is as fun. The choreography by Lisa Stevens was slick in the production numbers with the levels within the set being used to full effect throughout the show as dancers were constantly leaping onto or off desks and the whole ensemble rose to the challenge of the dance numbers with not only energy but also character oozing from them all.
The costumes were also wonderful to look at, reminiscent of the 80’s whilst perfectly encompassing each character, from Doralee’s pink stiletto heels to Violet’s power suits, both of which contrasted with Judy’s more flowing feminine dresses. Each costume really told a story and that’s before we even talk about Hart’s bondage outfit!!
9 to 5 is a fun musical which balances plenty of laughs,big dance routines and even bigger shoulder pads with a poignant message. So…… tumble out of bed and stumble to New Wimbledon Theatre to catch 9 to 5 this week.
9 to 5 is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre until 23rd October and it then continues its Nationwide tour. Find out more here.