Review By Frances Winston
9 to 5 – The Musical
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2
Runs until September 23rd at 7.30pm nightly.
Matinees Saturday 23rd, at 2.30pm
Tickets from €21
Even if you are not a fan of Dolly Parton or weren’t around in the 80s it is extremely unlikely that you haven’t at least heard the iconic song 9 to 5 – the title track of the 1980 film of the same name.
Although released nearly 40 years ago, its plot is rather timely in the current climate, as three women take revenge on their sexist, misogynistic, and rather inappropriate boss. While it is somewhat sad that this story should still resonate, it is to the benefit of Dolly Parton fans, as the “Backwoods Barbie” (her words and the title of her last tour) has written all the songs for this, including the iconic title track.
Having seen many musical adaptations of 80s movies, I wasn’t sure what to expect here. Despite the wealth of talent behind it – it even boasts the movie’s original writer,Patricia Reisneck – it could have gone either way.
It arrived into Dublin for the final dates on its UK and Ireland tour, boasting two star names, former pop star, Louise Redknap, and Love Island’s Amber Davies. Unfortunately, on press night only one of these showed up, as Louise was not performing.
Not a great start, but not enough to deter me – to be honest, sometimes you wish the ‘named’ performers hadn’t shown up, as they are often a novelty booking! And anyone disappointed by Louise’s absence was quickly appeased, as none other than Dolly herself made an appearance. OK not in the flesh, but she has pre-recorded a whole piece, which is shown before the show (and a couple of other pieces scattered throughout) in which she introduces the characters, and then breaks into ‘that song’. It’s actually quite a thrilling opening, even if you are not a Dolly fan, and adds a special sprinkle of stardust to proceedings.
From the off, there is huge energy – all musicals have a lot of energy, but this seems exceptional, even by usual standards. The set is fantastic, and of a bigger scale than many similar touring musicals, and proves incredibly adaptable, becoming different home spaces, offices, and even at one point a hospital!
Although I’ve given you the gist of the plot, at times the movie does get a bit complex, however, Reisneck has done a great job of stripping the story back to the essentials, and this is very easy to follow, even if you don’t know the film.
She has peppered it with a huge amount of contemporary humour, with jokes about modern politics and situations (no Prince Andrew jokes yet, but watch this space) and even manages to squeeze in an homage to Phantom of the Opera!
Her writing is completely enhanced by Dolly’s songs. That woman knows how to write a catchy tune, and she doesn’t disappoint here. There are some amazing numbers, that really allow the cast to display the full extent of their vocal range. And the arrangements are wonderful.
Of course, without a suitable cast, the best book and songs in the world don’t matter, and bear in mind that the leads here are filling the shoes of some rather substantial talents, since in the movie they were portrayed by none other than Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlinson, and Dolly herself.
Davies takes on the Fonda role of Judy – the woman forced to go out to work after her husband leaves her. She feels a bit young for the role, and doesn’t always hit the mark, but after the interval she seemed to find her stride and comedic timing, and she even gets a big musical number – Get Out and Stay Out – which went down a storm with the audience.
Stepping into Tomlinson’s shoes is Louise – or, on the night I saw it, her understudy, Laura Tyrer. She was absolutely amazing in the part of Violet – the long serving and downtrodden employee, passed over for promotion in favour of a man. To be honest, people forgot pretty quickly that Louise wasn’t there. Laura proved to have serious vocal chops, fantastic comic timing, and wonderful dramatic skills.
The actress tasked with stepping into the (very high) heels of Dolly’s character, Doralee, is Georgina Castle. This is no small feat. Dolly herself even acknowledges that the character is basically her in the introduction. But I was completely blown away by her performance. She introduced many of Dolly’s idiosyncrasies into the performance, while still making it her own, and she absolutely knows how to deliver a line.
Special mention must also go to Sean Needham as Franklin Hart Jr, the women’s sleazy boss, and Lucinda Lawrence as his besotted co-worker Roz, who both put in hugely comedic turns.
To use Dolly’s phraseology, this is a rootin’ tootin’ high hootin’ good time. Having gone in with no expectations, I came out with the songs stuck in my head, and a smile on my face. It’s one of those extremely infectious shows that you can’t help but get caught up in. If you are in doubt – I pulled my back the day of the show, and was in a lot of pain, but for the duration of the show I almost forgot about it, and still found myself on my feet singing along.
Much like Dolly, this has lots of front and lots of window dressing, but it also has a lot of substance and a huge amount of heart, and is (unfortunately) still a relevant story.
An absolutely cracking night out, it may not be the most highbrow musical you’ll ever see, but it certainly will be one of the most fun.
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