9 To 5 The Musical Review – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

9 To 5 The Musical 2021
Image Source: British Theatre

Show: 9 To 5 The Musical
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Date: Tuesday November 2 2021
Time: 19.30
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Age Rating: 12+
Production Company: Sellador Worldwide
Writer: Patricia Resnick
Director: Jeff Calhoun

This is our theatre review for 9 To 5 The Musical at Liverpool‘s Empire Theatre. So, let’s take a look at 9 To 5!

9 To 5 The Musical

Background

9-5, the stage musical takes the big-haired, shoulder-padded ‘80s female empowerment comedy movie, adds songs by Dolly Parton and is adapted by the original screenwriter Patricia Resnick: tonight it started a revival tour in Liverpool after drawing large audiences internationally since 2008.

Footage of an omniscient Parton as God figure & narrator tops & tails the show and the plot is a carbon copy of the original, which gets comedic mileage out of three female office workers taking revenge on their sexist, egotistical & corrupt boss by kidnapping him: in his absence from work they transform the office environment, work culture and the treatment of workers at Consolidated Holdings – as well as the company’s productivity.

Synopsis Of 9 To 5 The Musical

In this stage version, Parton’s film character, the misjudged buxom blonde secretary Doralee Rhodes (played energetically by Stephanie Chandos) joins new worker and jilted wife of the aptly named Dick, Judy Bernly (Vivian Panko) and career-frustrated & overlooked single mom Violet Newstead (an endearing Lousie Redknapp) to present a triumvirate of female solidarity and support. Each actress is given a solo number which showcases her particular strength: Panka’s rendition of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ is the most moving, as she grows in vocal strength, celebrating the independent woman she has transformed; Chandos offers a cheery-sounding but ultimately plaintive ‘Backwoods Barbie’ and Redknapp gets to dance in a shiny white suit as she did on Strictly.

But, as always, the Devil has the best tunes and it is the villains who steal the show – with Sean Needham’s crude and lewd misogynist, Franklin Hart, who, whether trussed up in bondage gear and swinging from the light fittings to fake retching at the sight of a woman who repulses him, is more bestial than human. His character elicits the strongest audience reactions with his genuinely shocking physical gestures and misogynistic jokes: the audience loved and hated him equally – and he went into full panto villain mode at one point and told the audience to simply “f*ck off”.

Analysis

It’s the extreme slapstick & vaudeville elements of the show that work best and a standout burlesque turn from Julia Nagle as lovelorn secretary Roz, transforming herself from a memo-obsessed, cold fish frump to a corset-clad smouldering (but clumsy) siren – echoes the comic brilliance and pathos of Lucille Ball or Ethel Merman

The changes the central characters affect as they get into their stride running the company are mirrored in the set and costume changes – but are, as in the real world, largely cosmetic. Out goes dark furniture and stereotyped female outfits and in come pops of primary colour and slacks. Equal pay is the biggest gain – but nowhere in the musical (as in the movie) is the hierarchy truly challenged. Therefore, the shareholders still remain the biggest beneficiaries of change. I’d hoped for a more radical message after 40 years. This was a feel-good musical that actually made me feel a bit sad.

Summary Of 9 To 5 The Musical

Designed to be crowd-pleasing, 9-5 can also be at times a bit bland. And it simply isn’t kitsch or camp enough to be iconic. Therefore, it remains two-dimensional and fairly unmemorable. Furthermore, there is not even any real dramatic tension when Hart escapes his imprisonment & tries to expose the women’s plotting to the company CEO – but the sauce and the spice from Needham & Nagle do compensate a little. The audience (mostly middle-aged women) however, loved the production, consumed a lot of booze and gave a standing ovation – and, in fairness, it is a high energy, brightly coloured & gleaming production: for the first night of a national tour, this was an unexpectedly streamlined & polished performance.

But overall, this supposedly feminist take on an anti-feminist time shows how very little we have come in over four decades. One single benevolent female CEO does not make for revolution & she’s still working for The Man. Something that tackled this with a bit more substance over style… now, that would’ve really been worth tumbling out of bed for.

Notes

Target Audience: 16+
Content: Some Strong Language & Sex References
Recommendation?: Yes

Overall Rating: 6/10 – Reasonable

9 To 5 The Musical Further Links

9 To 5 – The Musical runs at the Empire Theatre until Saturday November 6 2021. And you can still buy tickets for this show.

The show also has its own website for you to check out.

Furthermore, you can read our previous review of this show.

Check Out All Of Our Empire Theatre Reviews!

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