There’s really no time to consider whether 9 to 5 The Musical will meet expectations. We did love the film after all. But straight up, Dolly Parton greets us with a warm southern welcome via video and gets our feet a-tappin’ as the title number is belted out. We’re clearly in for a rollickin’ good time as the star of the 1980 film seamlessly whisks us away onto the stage and into the fun.
The 9 to 5 story, adapted for the stage by original screen writer Patricia Resnik, is still the same, a flimsy, rather silly plot, lacking any substance or credibility. But enter the leading ladies. That’s when you know you’re in great hands. Our all Aussie crew, Casey Donavan (Judy), Marina Prior (Violet), Erin Clare (Doralee) and Caroline O’Connor (Roz), are a formidable force of talent, sweeping us up with strong numbers and powerful acting, admirably supported by Eddie Perfect, the loathsome CEO Frank Hart Jnr., the man we love to hate.
I have to say I was a little bemused by the indignation, (there were audible gasps of horror), from the audience over the crass sexism oozing from Frank (“At least you’re pretty. You should see some of the crones who come through here” ). But overt sexism was in its prime in the 80s and indeed was the trigger for the film which tells the story of three women getting together to take down their vile chauvinistic boss. Led by another great female cast, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, the film oozed a huge political, girl-power undercurrent, and naturally, 40 years later, it was a shock for my 20-something daughter to hear a scoff about the idea of women becoming CEOs. But even more intriguing was her first observation.
“Oh my gosh, they were the days when everyone wore suits to work.”
Oh my gosh! Yes! Snappy dark suits for the men and power dressing with sharply defined shoulder pads for the women, all turning up to work in the office, literally from nine to five. While the sexism may still lurking, dress codes and hours have certainly changed.
While the musical premiered on Broadway in 2009, it was reworked by Parton and Resnick for the West End last year, with Dolly writing the score, a collaboration of old and new hits. Of course, her hit 9 to 5 is still a standout, for sheer toe-tapping power alone, but hot on its heels is O’Connor’s hilarious soulful ballad Heart to Hart about her raw lust for her boss; Clare’s Backwoods Barbie (a song as much about the judgement from women as it is men) and Prior’s wistful fantasy of becoming CEO with One Of The Boys.
But it’s Donavan who consistently steals the show. Her portrayal as the meek, down-trodden Judy Bernly is flawless, as is her comic timing, and you can’t help but cheer when she belts out Get Out and Stay Out. Such a talent.
Sure, we can get bogged down in discussions over how bad things were for women in the 80s and how much things may, or may not, have changed. But don’t over think it. Just enjoy the music, the lyrics, the vibrant performances and the silliness.
Oh, there is one thing I could quibble over. It’s that damn earworm which started bouncing around in my head in anticipation of seeing the show and hasn’t given up since. I swear that “workin’ 9 to 5 what a way to make a living” has been reverberating through my ear drums for weeks now. Can’t flick it. Not sure I want to. It makes me smile.
Captiol Theatre Campbell Street, Haymarket
Wednesday to Sunday until May
Tickets from $69 @ 9to5themusical.com.au or phone 136 100