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Waterfront Festival

Theatre Review: 9 to 5 the Musical

27 October 21 words: Kevin Stanley

Three underpaid, overworked and under appreciated women fight back

Fans of the 1980s film starring Dolly Parton will love this stage version of 9-5 The Musical as it’s full of life, colour and energy. It is introduced, and closed, by Dolly Parton herself by a pre-recorded video and the whole show is lots of fun.

It has attracted some criticism in recent years with less than glowing reviews, as people view it through a 21st century lens. Millennials may believe that it should be consigned to history as a sexist romp, not appropriate in a post-#MeToo, post-#Weinstein scandal world. But it does remain as a colourful homage to the 80s with well designed, colourful sets, well orchestrated scenery changes and plenty of enthusiasm from an energetic cast.

Three women are working the 9-5 office life. They’re tormented by the sexist, misogynistic boss. Underpaid, overworked and seriously under appreciated, they hatch a plot to turn the tables and bring about his downfall.

Violet is played with conviction by Louise Redknapp. Doralee is brought to life by Stephanie Chandos who does a fine impersonation of Dolly Parton and Violet is played by Vivian Panka who is perhaps the standout performer and a great singer. Company CEO Franklin Hart Jr. is played by Sean Needham who is clearly enjoying his time in the role, with a few winks to the audience.

The first half of the show does contain more than a few sexist jokes and a few rather lewd situations. Apparently perfectly normal in the 80s, but four decades later they do feel somewhat tasteless and outdated due to the huge shift in socio-economic politics over the years. Women in tight skirts being ogled by the sleazy boss etc., does make for a few uneasy moments but the Nottingham audience seem to appreciate that this is all now intended as satire and that the acting is tongue in cheek and played for (albeit cheap) laughs rather than being played straight. The rip roaring laughter that these jokes might have been meet with back in the day now produce drier laughs.

The 80s have been perfectly recreated here, the production values are high, the set is full of colour, the live music played to the songs is very welcome and lively, and the energy and commitment from the actors is impressive. The themes of gender equality, equal pay and women’s rights are all put front and centre and the overall message is a positive one, that sees the women win in the end and promote women’s rights.

This show is all about celebrating women. And I think that it does it very well.

9-5 The Musical plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 30 October 2021.


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