Now more than 30 years old, the 20th Century Fox comedy film 9 to 5 captured the zeitgeist of the 1980s and catapulted singer Dolly Parton into popular culture as an icon of the era. Parton’s catchy rendition of the movie’s theme tune was an instant hit and goes some way to explaining the story’s enduring appeal. Patricia Resnick’s adaptation for the stage remains faithful to its source work although the formulaic conclusion so acceptable on celluloid, seems distinctly unsatisfying, despite Parton’s lively score, which borrows heavily but not exclusively from the emotional territory of her country and western roots.
Jackie Clune (Violet Newstead), Amy Lennox (Doralee Rhodes) and Natalie Casey (Judy Bernly) in 9 to 5 - The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre, London Photo: Simon Annand
A lively ensemble is led by an astutely cast triumvirate of leading ladies, namely Jackie Clune as office manager Violet Newstead, Amy Lennox as Doralee Rhodes and the wonderful Natalie Casey, putting her exquisite comic timing to good use as office newcomer Judy Bernley. Ben Richards is an unqualified success as the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot Franklyn J Hart but stealing the show is veteran performer Bonnie Langford as Roz Keith. Ostensibly playing against type as the officious spoilsport spinster, this musical verbalises Roz’s unrequited love for her boss and it’s not long before Langford is stripped to her undies, dancing a tango and reminding her audiences of both her dramatic and physical flexibility as a performer.
Jeff Calhoun’s direction is sound rather than outstanding with an emphasis on choreography to ensure a slick, seamless show. The presence of Parton as a bookend projection however is an unnecessary crowd-pleaser that jars against rather than informs the narrative. Kenneth Foy’s practical touring scenic design wittily illustrates both the vulgarity and the naivete of the age without hammering home the references, a task best left to Richard Mawbey and his vivacious wig designs.