Sharing many similarities with the 1980 film, 9 to 5 The Musical follows Violet (Louise Redknapp), Doralee (Stephanie Chandos) and Violet (Vivian Panka) as they get even with, and then overthrow, company CEO Franklin Hart Jr. (Sean Needham). It is slapstick, silly and when not a little uncomfortable, lots of fun.
Seated nicely in the middle of the stalls one would expect a treat of a show, especially from a high energy musical filled with many experienced musical theatre performers. Yet the energy level and punch from the cast is inconsistent, often failing to reach past the first 10 rows. Comedic accents and a lack of diction get in the way at times- particularly for Act II’s Change it which is completely lost. Being a ‘feel-good’ musical, this missing ‘punch’ is a major downfall.
On the plus side, Panka, making her UK debut, gives one of the standout performances of the evening as office newbie Judi. She puts a fresh spin on the cute but strong character, while her take on Get Out and Stay Out is one of the more noteworthy songs. Russell Dickson is another who doesn’t leave the audience wanting more. His role as Joe isn’t a major one, but he makes the character memorable with a sincere and captivating performance; his ‘Let Love Grow’ with Redknapps’s Violet is a heart-warming and immersive number.
The production decides to take the egotistical and perverted Franklin Hart Jr., played whole-heartedly by Needham, to a much lighter note, the character becomes panto-esque with multiple audience asides and vaudeville like comedy. Needham gives his all in a competent performance although it is a little marmite, some will warm to it, others won’t. The same can be said about the show themes and how this production attempts to represent them- equal pay and equality across the board, something we can all agree should be the norm, but the show often uses cheap gags and a few too many predatory gestures in trying to achieve its satire.
The creative team do a good job of putting on a feel-good show. The design is punchy and the choreography slick. Altogether it is a slightly outdated show that has done its best to keep up with our times, held together by a strong ensemble and a couple of top-class performances.
Music and Lyrics by: Dolly Parton
Book by: Patricia Resnick
Directed by: Jeff Calhoun
Produced by: Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Selladoor Worldwide, Gavin Kalin Productions, Glass Half Full Productions
9 To 5 The Musical plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until 23 October, before embarking on a nationwide tour, currently until March 2022. Further information and tour dates via the below link.