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BWW Review: 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, New Wimbledon Theatre


Dolly Parton's frothy musical is back in business on a new tour

BWW Review: 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, New Wimbledon Theatre

BWW Review: 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, New Wimbledon Theatre Is there anyone in the world who doesn't love Dolly Parton? Even country music-haters know her tunes and appreciate her philanthropy. 9 To 5 The Musical debuted on stage in 2009 and is an entertaining adaptation of the revenge satire film, which saw Dolly, along with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda outwitting their awful and sexist male boss to gain female empowerment.

Violet is looking for a promotion, Judy's husband has left her and Doralee is struggling to make people take her seriously. They have to navigate an office environment brimming with sexism and downright misogyny. Together, they bring about the satisfying, if not implausible and cartoonish, downfall of their boss, the lecherous Franklin Hart Jr, and create a much more comfortable and productive place to work.

Vivian Panka makes an impressive UK stage debut as a likable Judy. She also has a powerful singing voice, with her rendition of "Get Out and Stay Out" as an anthem to female empowerment.

Stephanie Chandos is a beguiling Doralee, but has a southern accent so strong that it verges on parody. She has a soulful voice and evokes some of Parton's own unique country style well.

Louise Redknapp is the celebrity draw for this tour and makes a decent job in the role of Violet. She is exhibits good comic timing and gives off a motherly vibe to the other women and the three harmonise well together in songs such as the catchy "Hey Boss".

As the vile Franklin Hart Jr, Sam Needham has a task to bring humanity to the character; Hart is a sexual predictor and advances men within the company over the more qualified females. The only way to take the unpalatable edge off him is to play the character for laughs, which Needham manages to do well, but it does lapse into tired Carry-On like humour at points.

Julia J Nagle is very entertaining as Roz, the eyes and ears of Hart, but who also has a secret crush on him. Her rendition of "Heart to Hart" while dressed in a red basque is ridiculous, but good fun.

The production looks great; the ensemble is on good form; high on energy and complimented by Lisa Stevens' slick choreography. Tom Rogers' colourful and detailed set transforms from a high-rise office to hospital corridor to Hart's bedroom sex dungeon seamlessly.

This is not a subtle production; jokes are cheesy and the boss is a villain straight from a pantomime. However, beyond the satirical froth, the show sometimes feels too reductive, however radical the film felt at the time. The 'girls' triumph over the men in the end, but are subjected to the tired tropes of having their bottoms stared at and are either leered at or dismissed according to their age and appearance.

Dolly is very much a prominent presence in this production; her name is all over the publicity, the show is topped and tailed by videos of her and she wrote all the songs. It is incredible that the 1980 film argued for equal pay, flexible hours and in-house childcare and that women are often still fighting for these things over 40 years later.

Despite Parton's songs being best known for their earnest and heart-broken sentiments, her show is not at all serious, but fun, frothy and over-the-top, with as much understatement as a rhinestone cowboy shirt.

9 To 5 The Musical is at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 23 October, then touring

Photo Credit: Simon Turtle

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