9 To 5 The Musical
Writer: Patricia Resnick
Cast: Louise Redknapp, Amber Davies, Georgina Castle & Sean Needham
Review Date: October 1 2019
Performances: October 1-5 2019, 7.30pm incl. 2.30pm matinees
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Age Rating: 12+
Based on the original 1980 movie, 9 To 5 The Musical brings to Liverpool’s Empire Theatre a story of how females in an office environment work together to overcome the blatant sexism and ignorance of their boss in a comedic manner, all with a little help from the country singing sensation whose starring role and music made the movie a massive success as well as boosting her own career to a great degree, Dolly Parton.
Dolly herself introduces the show on a screen contained within an oversized clock that forms part of the show’s logo in a nice touch, as she explains the basic premise of the story (a tactic that theatre productions should use more often, in my opinion). We meet a variety of characters, but four stand out in particular: Franklin Hart Jr. (Sean Needham), who is the overbearing male chauvinistic boss of Consolidated Companies; Violet Newstead (Louise Redknapp), his wife who he plans to leave imminently for a planned love interest; Doralee Rhodes (Georgina Castle), in the Dolly role from the film, who rejects his advances yet is initially seen as a potential relationship-wrecker before standing up for herself; and Judy Bernly (Amber Davies), a shy, timid young lady who is just starting in the office but is a nervous wreck, not least because her own man, Dick, has left her.
Their various issues combine with the concerning actions of Mr. Hart, although his attempts at sparking “love” are clearly played for laughs, so much so that you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculous nature of it all. The three ladies decide to work together on teaching him a lesson, but that quickly spirals out of control to such an extent that they initially fear they have finished him off for good, and when they haven’t, they become worried about getting caught. Which, of course, only leads them to pile further amusing misery on Mr. Hart, and the upshot is a two-fold story of whether they can succeed in his absence while running the firm, and whether he can escape his problematic situation and regain control of his company while ensuring that the threesome receive the sufficient punishments for their actions.
Louise Redknapp is a well-established performer who slides into the role of Violet Newstead with ease, becoming easily believable and easily sympathetic in her plight, not least because her strong work ethic and commitment to the office environment allows her to take a leadership position with aplomb. Also enjoyable were the contributions of Amber Davies as Judy Bernly, managing to find the perfect balance between a naive, at times silly person, and a strong-minded, energetic and likeable woman. Georgina Castle also did a fine job as Doralee Rhodes, hitting the Dolly high notes and accent, not to mention the looks! As for Sean Needham as Franklin Hart Jr., his sexist jokes and beliefs make him a figure of contempt, but his mannerisms and one-liners are at times hilarious, thus ensuring that while he is certainly somebody to dislike, it’s hard to truly hate him, which is a good spot to be in for a light-hearted show that ultimately offers a serious message.
Elsewhere, I thought the settings were very effective and managed to perfectly embody the different environments, from the Consolidated Companies roof-top to Mr. Hart’s office to a hospital ward, with plenty of colourful screens and vibrant lights to quite literally help the cast to shine. It’s an interesting show to watch because, on the one hand, as it is based on a 39-year-old movie, one watches this while realising the true strides that females have earned in corporate structures since the film; on the other hand, though, females continue to be sexually harassed at an alarming rate in the workplace and this, combined with the #MeToo movement, arguably makes their key statements more prevalent than ever.
As noted, Dolly makes brief appearances on the screen at the beginning of the first and second half and also at the finale. This gives the show an extra layer of credibility, because it receives the full endorsement of a musical icon. As a result, it adds authenticity to the soundtrack with a number of catchy, memorable hits. None more so than the title tune itself 9 To 5, which is sung at various points including the high-energy finale that brought the Empire audience to their feet.
9 To 5 The Musical succeeds on several levels, and with strong performances across the board, some clever slapstick comedy, a number of excellent songs, authentic backdrops and an important underlying message, it is a show that has something for everybody. Each attendee will leave with something to think about, but most of all, they will leave having been entertained from – well, I want to say from 9 To 5, but does 7.30 To 10 count?
Target Audience: Adults Aged 18-40
Content: 2/5 – Infrequent Strong Language, Moderate Sex References & Innuendo
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good
9 To 5 The Musical runs at the Empire Theatre until Saturday October 5. To buy tickets, click here or call 0844 871 3017.