Sean Needham (Frank Hart) and Stephanie Chandos (Doralee)
9 to 5 the Musical at the New Theatre Oxford opens with a giant video of Dolly Parton’s head talking to the audience, and this nicely sets you up for the night: good, camp fun.
The screenplay for the original film 9 to 5 (starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and of course my new personal friend Dolly Parton) was written in the late 70s, and I confess I haven’t seen it, but the message of the musical feels very of its era. (Feminism, if you were wondering, means tying up your boss in his own S&M gear). At times this makes for some slightly hammy points, but we’ll take this as a win for society having moved on, and besides — no one’s really here for the politics. We’re here for a show!
Well, we got it. The strongest parts of 9 to 5 the Musical are undoubtedly the ensemble song and dance numbers: swirling skirts, pivoting feet, chorusing voices — huge energy, and huge amounts of fun. Highlights were ‘9 to 5’ (obviously) and ‘One of the Boys’, which are both big, full-ensemble numbers that get you bopping along and cheering.
Claire Sweeney as Violet
Aside from the occasionally patchy American accents (which to be honest added to the comedy of it all), the production’s full of great performances. Our three heroines are played by Claire Sweeney (Violet), Stephanie Chandos (Doralee) and Vivian Panka (Judy), each giving it their all, with some especially strong, charming vocals from Vivian Panka, who’s making her UK debut with the show.
In terms of physical comedy, Julia J Nagle as Roz and Sean Needham as big-bad-boss Frank Hart both really deliver, unafraid of the cheeky and downright crude. There was cackling from the audience throughout the night — and that includes myself, despite usually giving slapstick laughs a swerve.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those in need of a laugh, gaggles of girls, fans of Dolly Parton. Anyone who fancies a night of unapologetically kitsch fun.
Not for: If you’re in search of something serious, this will be a miss. Aside from ‘9 to 5’ the songs themselves aren’t anything special, so music snobs might find it a challenge.
9 to 5 the Musical is showing at the New Theatre Oxford until 22 Jan. Tickets from £13. 24-26 George St, Oxford OX1 2AG.