9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre
Jolly music, bright colours and an empowering theme of female revolution against male tyranny are the ingredients for Dolly Parton’s totally enjoyable musical, now at its West End transfer at the Savoy Theatre.
In the busy office of Consolidated Companies, three women start raising their heads above the parapet after intolerable abuses of power by the men in charge of their lives. Doralee (Natalie McQueen) is believed by everyone to have slept with her boss to obtain his favour. Violet (Caroline Sheen), after 15 years of impeccable work, is denied a deserved and long-pursued promotion, only to see it passed on to one of her subordinates – just because he is a man. Judy (Amber Davies), back in the office after being left by her husband, is unfairly deprived of a week of salary. Setting up a series of traps as a means of payback, the three get down to business.
Bubbly numbers and captivating country rhythms fully compensate for the straight and, at times, slightly shallow plot. The kitsch setting is matched by humorous temperaments, which further amplify the effects of some bold choices. Hyper-lacquered hair and stereotypically mindless and vile men are some of them, but probably the biggest risk was betting heavily on slapstick and plain blunders. The result is exquisite entertainment. The absurdity of some scenes, as well as their evident exaggeration, is complemented by excellent performances and set design. The elongated background, featuring rows of flashing computer screens – which, occasionally, display introductory videos by Dolly Parton herself – composes a frame all around the stage, adding the perfect final touch to the sleek scene changes and pop palettes.
Sheen, Davies and McQueen make a very enthusiastic trio, leading with the strong delivery of Shine Like the Sun and the funny execution of Hey Boss. But a real sensation is Bonnie Langford, the “hot red mama” Roz, who unexpectedly performs her solo Heart to Heart in sexy lingerie, with extraordinary singing topped by a vigorous choreography. It’s a pity the audience cannot have more of her, but that single number drags along a good amount of laughter whenever the performer appears for the rest of the show. Brian Conley fully masters his role as the rather incompetent boss loaded with machismo.
This glamorous tale of revenge feels like it’s missing the right kicks to make it a relatable story – especially when it comes to its pretty rosy ending. However, 9 to 5 doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s what makes it an unpretentious and indeed refreshingly light-hearted comedy, with an irresistible pace to keep your feet moving.
Photo: Pamela Raith
9 to 5 is at the Savoy Theatre from 28th January until 31st August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.