Since the end of lockdown and the reopening of theatres, The Alexandra, Birmingham, has served up a fare of fun, feelgood shows that have been designed to make you smile, laugh and sing-a-long, pure joy anecdotes after 2020/1. Last night this continued with the return of the Dolly Parton smash hit ‘9 to 5’, the story of three women working in an office environment who finally have enough of their misogynistic boss and take revenge in the best (and funniest) way possible.
Violet, Doralee and Judy all work for the odious sexist Franklin Harte, but with very different experiences. Violet is a long standing, brilliant employee, a widow who is constantly passed over for promotion in favour of young men she trained. Doralee is the sexbomb personal secretary for Franklin Harte, one who is reduced to running around his office in a bid to avoid his sexual advances, and Judy is a newcomer, a new divorced young woman who has no real office skills, but is willing to learn and really needs the job. One night, after a mix up with rat poison and sugar, the women snap and kidnap Franklin, finally gaining some power of the office. But what will happen when Franklin finally gains his freedom?
The film version of 9 to 5 starred some monster talent in Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, but the musical cast certainly live up to them. As Violet, Louise Rednapp is absolutely the heart and soul of this, she is brilliant in every single scene, fully able to handle both the comedic and more poignant moments, and absolutely on top form on the Busby Berkeley styled ‘One of the Boys’. Stephanie Chandos is perfect as the gorgeous Doralee, believed to be Franklin’s mistress, but actually happily married and as sharp as a tack. She delivers her role with sweet Southern charm lined with an edge, certainly doing Dolly, sorry Doralee, justice. The leading ladies are rounded out by the lovely Vivian Panka as Judy, who starts out a little sad and feeling used but changes very quickly, and is just fabulous performing the gutsy ‘Get out and stay out’.
Covering the role of Franklin Harte was the brilliant Richard Taylor Woods. He was just hilarious as Franklin, totally sending himself up as the misogynistic sexist who is one long line of bad jokes and sexual innuendo. He is matched by office spy Roz, the fantastic Julia J Nagle, harbouring a not so secret love for Franklin, and basically bringing the house down with the raunchy ‘Heart to Harte.’
9 to 5 is one of those musicals where everything just hits the right note, from the clever staging that creates 1980’s New York, complete with primary coloured art in the office space, to the costumes that actually had me hoping for yet another 80’s revival. The songs are brilliantly catchy, many with a country feel, just as you’d expect from a Dolly Parton show, and the ending is exactly what you hoped for.
9 TO 5 is an ode to the power of women and the power of friendship. Do not miss!