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BWW Review: 9 TO 5, King's Theatre, Glasgow

The Dolly Parton hit show comes to Glasgow

BWW Review: 9 TO 5, King's Theatre, Glasgow

BWW Review: 9 TO 5, King's Theatre, Glasgow On the day that Nicola Sturgeon announced home-working Scots could once again return to the office, theatre fans could tumble out of bed and stumble down to the King's Theatre Glasgow to catch 9 to 5, the first touring show to play there since Scottish venue capacities were relaxed last week.

The hit show featuring music and lyrics by Dolly Parton follows a grassroots fight for gender equality in a corporate workplace. It started life as a movie in 1978 and opened on Broadway in 2009.

9 to 5 first came to the UK as a touring production in 2012 and then enjoyed a West End revival in 2019 at the Savoy Theatre, a run sadly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. This second UK tour is based on the West End production.

There is no mistake which show you're seeing when you walk into the auditorium: centre stage sits a larger than life show title set-piece - perfect for a pre-curtain snap for posting on social media.

The show starts with a bang with the rousing title number, with the company enthusiastically delivering Lisa Steven's lively and swish choreography. Jeff Calhoun's direction ensures that the energy doesn't drop for a second.

It's very easy to fall in love with the trio of leading ladies: Claire Sweeney commands the stage as Violet Newstead, Vivian Panka is suitably endearing as innocent Judy Bernly, and Stephanie Chandos makes for a glamourous and explosive Doralee Rhodes - her performance garners one of the largest cheers and rounds of applause during a stand-off with one of the misogynistic male colleagues in the office where they all work.

Sean Needham is suitably seedy and repulsive as the boss of Consolidated Industries, Franklin Hart Jnr, and Julia J Nagle steals many scenes as Roz Keith.

Dean McDermott leads the orchestra as Musical Director/Keys 1 player. The grooves are driving and instantly recognisable, it's just unfortunate that, on occasion, the toe-tapping music overpowers the vocals at this particular performance. That said, the King's Theatre was literally shaking during the show's finale as people rose to their feet to join in with the performers.

Howard Hudson's lighting design makes use of a seemingly endless tunnel of chunky computer monitors framing the stage, alternating between punchy '80s colourful hues with the music. Video design by Nina Dunn extends the PC tunnel, while also transporting us to the upper floors of a city skyscraper for other scenes.

Tom Rogers' design and Richard Mawbey's wig and hair design anchor the cast in the '80s with sharp shoulder pads, geometric patterns, and voluminous hair aplenty. Aside from the odd wobbly vase as set pieces move, well-thought-out pieces differentiate between office interiors, suburban homes and city rooftops.

Jukebox musicals usually include a bit of silliness requiring a stretch of the imagination when the book has been formed around pre-existing music, but Patricia Resnick has inserted plenty of gags, and a bit of heart, to keep the audience engaged between the Dolly Parton hits and the extremities of the plot.

While admirably "feminist" in its tone, the show could benefit from a slight tweak to include a more inclusive and intersectional narrative highlighting additional burdens experienced by women from other minority groups at the time.

During the show, Sweeney's character expresses the hope that we won't be talking about unequal pay in the workplace "in a decades' time", and the audience laughed, then understandably sighed. For a light-hearted reminder that we're not quite there yet, come on down to 9 to 5 at the King's Theatre for a joyous night out!

9 to 5 at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, until 29 January

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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