9 to 5 (The Musical) – Review – A Dollytastic Show

William J Connolly
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(Ben Richards & Amy Lennox in 9 to 5 – The Musical. Photo: Simon Annand)

Sheffield Lyceum Theatre | 24th April 2013, 7:45pm

Friendship, Gossip, Poison, Murder? These ladies have all the fun sticking girl power directly in the face of sexism in Dolly Parton’s hit musical, 9 to 5.

Girl power is back! If it isn’t Legally Blonde or even the original girl-power divas in the Spice Girls, currently rocking their own musical adaptation in Viva Forever!, then it’s the hit 1980s film led by the ultimate feisty blonde, Dolly Parton.

9 to 5 – The Musical is written by Patricia Resnick, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. It follows the lives of three women: the office veteran, the new girl and the busty blonde, all struggling to fight against their ‘sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ boss, played by television regular Mark Morgaghan.

Minus a slight technical hitch with Dolly Parton freezing mid-opening, calling for a quick re-start of the entire show, the moment Parton’s famous song rings through the theatre, you are transported back to the 1980s with clashing outfits, crazy hair and even a dancing virtual Dolly Parton narrating you through it all.

In the original film, Parton played Doralee Rhodes, the busty secretary to boss Franklyn Hart Jr., who makes the lives of his staff members Judy Bernly and Violet Newstead (played originally by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) a living hell.

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This isn’t a lame old film dragged across two hours with songs added in for extra measure, no. 9 to 5 reimagines its hilarious storyline and adds a few surprises along the way.

As expected, the show’s stars are its three feisty ladies in Doralee, Judy and Violet, perfectly cast as Amy Lennox, Jackie Clune and Natalie Casey respectively.

Credit must go to Parton in giving all her girls their own big number, sticking their finger up to any sexist male from their lives. Clune, as office veteran Violet, gets her own male dancers as she showcases her life at the top of business in ‘One of the Boys’, whilst Casey as vulnerable Judy ends the show with her high-belting 11th-hour number ‘Get Out and Stay Out’, rivalling any top musical theatre performer on vocal talent alone.

However, the show’s star is the feisty blonde Doralee Rhodes, played by ex-Legally Blonde cast member Amy Lennox. Whether it’s her slim build, gorgeous vocals or busty boobs like the original country girl herself, Lennox has it all. Not many people can sing a Dolly Parton song better than the lady herself, however, Lennox’s rendition of the famous 2008 hit ‘Backwoods Barbie’ is as gorgeous as the lady herself. This one song was almost worth the ticket price alone.

Having seen the production previously at its UK debut in Manchester, the piece is almost unrecognisable. The production has developed around its cast but has clearly listened to audience feedback, ironing out the previously awkward pauses and unfunny gags.

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It is better suited to a larger stage, restricted slightly by the stage space available at the Sheffield Lyceum. This became most noticeable when a male ensemble member seemingly misjudged his positioning and took a ‘low blow’ during one of the show’s large ensemble numbers.

It’s great to watch a stage adaptation that honours its original piece whilst keeping true to its slightly naughty original film. What would a Dolly Parton musical be without revealing outfits and a naughty office assistant? That comes in the shape of Anita Louise Combe, who recently replaced stage favourite Bonnie Langford as Franklin Hart Jr.’s PA and devout admirer Roz Keith.

A deep purple all-in-one suit, horrible hair, but one heck of a singing voice. I imagine it would be difficult to follow in the footsteps of a stage legend like Langford however Combe makes the role her own, adding fight and even vulnerability to the role, something Langford didn’t. As the rather excitable couple in front rightly said after her big musical number ‘Heart to Hart’: “well I wasn’t expecting that voice”.

I couldn’t help but miss Ben Richards as Franklin Hart Jr., however Morgaghan is a great replacement. Richards is currently away working on other projects in America and will return to the tour in May.

Although the show will never win any awards for its original concept or staging, its has all the dedication, humour and heart to lead it around the UK and hopefully into a more permanent fixture in London in the not-so distance future. 9 to 5 is a hit show that will get you dancing in the aisles alongside Dolly at curtain call.

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If you get the chance to go back to the 1980s and dance with Dolly, do! I’ve no doubt you’ll love every minute, y’all.

9 to 5 – The Musical closes at the Sheffield Lyceum this Saturday (27th April) before opening at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (29th April – 4th May).

Tickets available direct at: www.9to5themusical.co.uk

About William J Connolly

Theatre journalist | Ex: The Times Newspaper, London 2012 (PR) and Marketing Manager for CHTC (Sheffield Lyceum). Twitter: @WJConnolly