While it has been a long time coming, 9 to 5 did not deliver in certain aspects... but did with promising new talent and a cool set design.
Love or hate Dolly Parton, 9 – 5 was a crowd-pleaser last night. With a packed out stall and circle, audiences anticipated being wowed by the cast of this West End smash-hit musical.
Parton wrote all the songs, appears in the MASSIVE 9 – 5 clock that is lit up in gold yellow as the narrator when needed and of course, you can’t have a musical based on her music without her being channelled into the poodle-coiffed doppelgänger Doralee. With cool lighting and clever set design, it’s hard to tell that Mayflower Theatre is not its natural home!
The plot, when it is obvious, is as ridiculous as these women’s ultra-glam interpretation of ‘office wear’. Violet accidentally laces the bossman’s tea with rat poison, then all three trap him in bondage gear while they turn the office into an equal-pay paradise with an on-site crèche. As if it is that easy! Luckily, no one pretends to take it seriously.
9 – 5 The Musical is adapted from the 1980 movie of the same name, which involves Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda running around an office and defeating their horrible and corrupt male boss. Whilst the context of the 1980s helps audiences understand the pure sexism and misogyny women faced in offices across the United States then, it has not aged well in a world post-Weinstein. With over the top acting and vulgar genital grabbing from Sean Needham, audiences tended to go quiet instead of the desired effect of laughter. Of course, there were subtle innuendos that worked well but it was a bit too much for a show that permits 14-year-olds.
As for Stephanie Chandos, her Doralee was a little hit and miss. Although her facial expressions were class, the acting was a little annoying; especially her fake laugh and nasally singing. Playing the stereotypical dumb-blonde (but really isn’t) who’s sleazy boss refuses to take no for an answer is hard to relate to in today’s world. However, the sense of desperation she brings to the role to create friends and prove she is capable was commendable. Nobody can play that role better than the original Dolly Parton, but kudos to Chandos for trying.
Louise Redknapp may have been the selling point for many and unfortunately, she did not live up to expectations with her characterisation of Violet. In her defence, there were technical issues throughout the night which did make it hard to hear her at times, but that does not make up for her poor accent. Was she from Brooklyn? The Bronx? or just really bad at accents? Violet is supposed to be a natural leader who longs for the promotion she deserves, but Redknapp does not bring that conviction to the role and to be perfectly honest, sang pretty flat in parts.
With that in mind, Vivian Panka’s UK debut as Judy Bernly stole the show! Her vocals were clean and precise. Her acting was believable. Her everything was perfection. The development we see of the character across the 2.5 hours was honestly mesmerising. So if you are keen to support new and upcoming talent in UK theatre, see the show to support the lovely Panka.
Without a shadow of a doubt ‘9 – 5’ is this show’s best song, and it knows how to use it… even if it is over the top. And we must give a massive shout-out to Panka’s rendition of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ which almost bought tears to our eyes as we celebrate the woman she has become. Still, it would have been nice to hear better songs such as ‘Jolene’, ‘Islands in the Stream’ or ‘I Will Always Love You’ make an appearance. But overall, this feminist spin on an anti-feminist time makes it worthwhile as a celebration of how far we have come in 41 years! Celebrating women is what it is all about.