Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of 9 TO 5 at London's Savoy Theatre?

Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of 9 TO 5 at London's Savoy Theatre?

Last night, Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 the Musical officially opened at London's Savoy Theatre.

The female-led, hugely fun musical follows workmates Doralee, Violet and Judy as they prepare to take revenge on their incredibly sexist supervisor. But as they tie him up and begin reforming the office, their CEO pays a surprise visit that none of them bargained for.

The show stars Caroline Sheen (Kiss Me Kate), Amber Davies (Love Island), Natalie McQueen (Kinky Boots), Brian Conley and Bonnie Langford (42nd Street), and features original music and lyrics by country legend Dolly Parton.

Let's see what the critics are saying!


Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: However, Jeff Calhoun's OTT, eager-to-please production struggles to find that delicate balancing act. It wants to be a #MeToo-esque female empowerment drama, as well as a madcap, cartoonish farce - but here, the latter stifles the former.

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: This is a very strange choice of West End musical for 2019. Fans of the ditzy eponymous 1980 Dolly Parton film will love it but everyone else is likely to be left mystified at quite how this grimly reductive material fits into the current post-#MeToo narrative. If even the show's advertising material refers to our three grown women heroines as "the girls", questions must surely be asked about how much of an ironic spin on the outdated sexual politics of four decades ago this really is. The only people seated around me who were laughing were late-ish-middle-aged men.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: While the musical is a simplistic revenge fantasy, it is stylishly put across in Jeff Calhoun's production. Caroline Sheen, as the office supervisor, sings and dances with great verve and she is well supported by Natalie McQueen as Doralee, Amber Davies as Judy and Bonnie Langford as the closeted sex queen. Given the unenviable task of playing the lecherous chief exec, Brian Conley invests the character with the right tongue-in-cheek excess.

This may be mass-market feminism but, with its advocacy of workplace equality, I could not bring myself to dislike it.

Alice Saville, TimeOut: '9 to 5' is this show's best song, and it knows how to use it, ie as often as possible. There's also a memorable performance of 'Backwoods Barbie' by Natalie McQueen as Doralee, who's got Parton's sweet yodelling tones down pat. Still, it would have been nice to hear take a crack at 'Jolene'. Or 'Islands in the Stream'. Or 'I Will Always Love You'.

But then, Parton's best songs have a yearning earnestness that's totally off-key for this brittle, joyful confection. If Parton's whole brand rests on the sincere heart beating under her fake rhinestone-studded costumes, '9 to 5' is all about her often-overlooked feminist edge - it's a hairspray-induced hallucination whose message lingers.

Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph: How would you set about defining what life was like in 1980? Well, it was the year Pac-Man came out, Moscow hosted the Summer Olympics and the world wanted to find out who shot JR. You couldn't miss off the list, either, that unlikely end of year movie sensation 9 to 5. Dolly Parton's revenge comedy about three harassed female office-workers who hold their loathsome male boss hostage, humiliating him and transforming their work-place, arguably marked a significant cultural moment in office and gender politics; a warm-hearted feminist rallying-cry for a pink-collar revolution.

Mark Shenton, London Theatre: Director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Lisa Stevens keep the show bubbling with a sparkling, propulsive effervescence, and Tom Rogers's design is dominated by receding banks of office computer screens and video projections that supply their own wit.

Matt Wolf, The Arts Desk: Under the circumstances, McQueen and especially Sheen do genuinely winning work, even when the material on many an occasion makes you wince. Bearing a passing resemblance to a young Lauren Bacall, Sheen directly recalls the Broadway and film legend in a second-act number, "One of the Boys", that has the same title as a showstopper from Woman of the Year, a long-ago Broadway vehicle for Bacall.

And you've got to hand it to Bonnie Langford, fresh from 42nd Street and cast as the Hart obsessive whose prim exterior couches a sexpot waiting to be let loose: this truly ageless performer will, it seems, stop at nothing to bring an audience on side and shows herself capable of leg extensions and the splits that might deter a performer half her age. For Langford alone an extra star for sheer sticktoitiveness, which is a trait audiences at 9 to 5 will come to experience first-hand.

Dominic Maxwell, The Times: Warm, larger-than-life, slightly overblown comic feel... Jeff Calhoun's West End production rarely takes you by surprise, but it never really lets you down either.

Chris Omaweng, LondonTheatre1.com: The set and costumes (Tom Rogers) are spot on, and the videos (Nina Dunn) are all easy on the eyes. This is, of course, a highly American show, with about as much unsubtlety as certain tennis players possess with their grunts and yelps. Handguns come out for reasons so frivolous even the National Rifle Association might be inclined to respond with, "Now, hold on a minute" or words to that effect. But there are some catchy musical numbers to enjoy in a slick and spirited production.

John Nathan, Metro: But the gags are all low-hanging fruit, with Conley's trussed-up boss the nearest the comedy gets to a highlight.

And really, a story in which the female revenge is not that much cleverer than the stupidity of the man who prompted it is surely unworthy of today's post-Weinstein conversation.

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: Times change but the message still rings strong. Indeed, a couple of added jokes which clearly refer to President Trump (despite the period setting) indicate that at some levels the cause of women's equality is moving backwards. But the musical is cruder in effect than the movie; the boss here (thanklessly and gamely played by Brian Conley) is a figure of fun, not a malevolent force. The addition of a subplot about spinster Roz, being obsessed with him, gets broad laughs but feels needlessly unkind. On the other hand, since she is played with lithe grace (doing the splits in sexy undies) and great panache by the seemingly ageless Bonnie Langford, she manages to count as a plus.

Kelly Allen, Mirror: Bonnie Langford steals the show as jobsworth Roz, doing great slapstick comedy.

This isn't a lazy jukebox musical either, so don't expect all of Dolly's hits. Apart from the title track, it's new songs she wrote just for this show.

And it is packed with laughs as big as Dolly's, erm, personality.

Luke Jones, Daily Mail: Our secretary trio is Caroline Sheen, Natalie McQueen and Amber Davies. Davies is far better than her Love Island career start would have you expect, Sheen is solid West End standard, but McQueen as Doralee (unmistakably the rootin'-tootin' Dolly Parton role) is the closest thing to stardust with fine Tennessee-twang vocal cords and a Barbara Windsor slapstick quality.

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