BWW Review: 9 TO 5, The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Dolly Parton's iconic song, "9 to 5", is instantly recognisable from the first few notes, so what better way to open her musical comedy stage adaptation?
Based on the 1980 film of the same name, 9 to 5 enjoyed a successful - whilst short-lived - run on Broadway in 2009, following its try-out season in Los Angeles. It received a record number of Drama Desk nominations, and although the critics gave it a lukewarm reception, audiences adored the show.
The West End production opened in February earlier this year, and this week has opened its second UK tour in Birmingham, starring Louise Redknapp and Amber Davies - both of whom performed the roles of Violet and Judy in London previously.
The show centres on three female colleagues, all struggling under the leadership of their sexist, bigoted male boss. They all pull together to turn the tables on him and transform their workplace. The book by Patricia Resnick, who also wrote the film screenplay, adapts perfectly to the stage with the right amount of comedy and innuendo to balance out the more serious topics.
Tom Rogers' elaborate set and costumes pay homage to the 1980s era with classic IBM personal computers lining the wings and side of the stage, and shoulder pads galore! Howard Hudson's lighting uses the set to his advantage and, collaboratively, they paint a monotone picture for much of Act One, followed by a mass injection of colour in Act Two - representing change in the office.
Jeff Calhoun's direction, paired with Lisa Stevens' intricate choreography, is superb, but what is dominant throughout the show is Dolly Parton through her music and lyrics. She makes a couple of welcome video appearances, but even when she is not seen, she is certainly heard.
The company are of an excellent calibre, and considering the early preview difficulties they experienced, the production is remarkably slick on all levels. Redknapp as supervisor Violet grows into her role as the show progresses. She lacks warmth in the first half, but by the time she has her big number in Act Two, "One of the Boys", she comes into her own. Vocally, she exercises her excellent pop voice, which combines well with Davies and Georgina Castle as Dora-Lee when singing in harmony.
2017 Love Island winner Amber Davies proves what an excellent triple threat she is, playing Judy. Her character is a real sweetheart, but she finds her strength in the other women and during her 11 o'clock number, "Get Out and Stay Out".
Dolly Parton's role in the film, Dora-Lee, is performed exceptionally by Georgina Castle. She embodies this misunderstood character and her vocals are incredibly special. Sean Needham as boss Franklin Hart is hilarious and although he is the chauvinist of the piece, he is central to the plot and the important underlying messages that the show promotes.
The ensemble provide phenomenal support throughout - it's one of the most energised companies I have had the pleasure of watching. Fun, feisty and fabulous.
9 to 5 plays at The Alexandra in Birmingham until 14 September and tours the UK until November 2019.