Dolly Parton's somewhat hallucinatory musical is a wilfully preposterous crowd-pleaser
Backwoods Barbie, rhinestone queen and all-round country music legend Dolly Parton has her glittering fingerprints all over this musical. She’s written all the songs, bar the iconic title track, especially for the show (this definitely isn’t a jukebox affair). She’s basically in it, as thinly disguised poodle-coiffed doppelgänger Doralee. And in case this escaped you, Parton pops up in video footage to introduce this whole bonkers confection to an audience of mad-keen fans.
‘9 to 5’ is a musical theatre version of the 1980 movie of the same name, which involves Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda running round an office and outwitting their dastardly male boss. And although this show started out in LA in 2005, it feels (shudder) pretty post-Weinstein, with its uncompromising focus on male shitness and violent retribution. Doralee (Natalie McQueen) can’t so much as climb a stepladder without her sleazy boss theatrically ogling her – and climbing any kind of career ladder is out of the question. Meanwhile Judy (Amber Davies, of ‘Love Island’ fame) is struggling to get to grips with some delightfully ’80s office tech, including a malevolent photocopier that attacks her with sheets of paper. And Violet – played by Caroline Sheen, subbing in for an injured Louise Redknapp who returns to the role next month – is a natural leader who’s longing for the promotion she deserves.
The plot, when it shows up, is about as ridiculous as these women’s ultra-glam interpretation of ‘office wear’. Violet accidentally laces the bossman’s tea with rat poison, then all three trap him in bondage gear while they turn the office into an equal-pay paradise with an on-site crèche. Fortunately, no one even pretends to take it seriously. And if Brian Conley’s performance as the panto villain-esque boss Franklin Hart Jnr is a little limp, it’s pretty forgiveable considering that he spends much of the show dangling from the roof in a studded pleather harness. Meanwhile, a fantastically game Bonnie Langford struts about in sexy undies as Roz, the initially old-maid-ish secretary who harbours a desperate unrequited passion for him.
‘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 has Parton’s sweet yodelling tones down pat. Still, it would have been nice to hear her 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 her 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.
|Venue name:||Savoy Theatre|
Savoy Court, Strand
|Transport:||Rail/Tube: Charing Cross; Tube: Embankment/Temple|
Average User Rating
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I laughed from start to finish, a brilliant light hearted and fun show with incredible talent. The critics need to get a life and not take it too seriously, at the end of the day everyone is enjoying the humour. It’s set in the 80’s remember les mis in the 1800’s!!! So what its hilarious!! The three leading ladies, Brian and Bonnie all embrace their roles and excel individually they are just brilliant. Get your tickets if you want fun and laughter it’s well worth a watch
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