It really should be 9 to 5’s moment. In the almost 40 years since the blockbuster comedy about three secretaries turning the tables on their sexist-pig boss was released, issues of gender equality and workplace harassment have never been so relevant.
And yet the cartoonish way this Dolly Parton-engineered 2008 stage version – which had a short Broadway run but fared better in this year’s West End revival – handles its sexual politics, and draws on the sex-pest antics for comic mileage, means it adds little to the discussion. Instead it rides on breezy charm and the affection audiences have for the original film and its larger-than-life star.
Parton looms large over proceedings, literally in the case of the show’s filmed inserts. Her bold and brassy self-confidence is channelled by director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Lisa Stevens, who marshal the ensemble slickly. The set and the video backdrops, from Tom Rogers and Nina Dunn, are executed with total precision.
None of Parton’s supplementary songs can match the incessant catchiness or lyrical dexterity of the title number, although Backwoods Barbie – winningly sung by Georgina Castle as Parton’s doppelganger Doralee – comes closest.
Love Island winner Amber Davies proves her position is no stunt casting, bringing a sweetness to new girl Judy and wringing every note out of the Defying Gravity-like Get Out and Stay Out. She combines to great effect with Louise Redknapp’s redoubtable Violet, while new additions to this touring production Sean Needham and Lucinda Lawrence equally impress as loathsome boss Franklin and his lovelorn assistant Roz.