9 to 5 The Musical at the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham Review

6-14 September 2019

9 to 5

Reviewed by Janine Rumble

If you are looking for a raucous, laugh out loud, thigh slapping, sing along to amazing catchy songs, yet slightly rude night out, then 9 to 5 The Musical is the theatre show for you.

Based on the famous 1980 film of the same name, starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, this theatre show is a homage to the 80s, power dressing, shoulder pads and the ever struggle of women fighting for equality with men in the world of business, friendship and girl power, all set to an amazing soundtrack and brilliant, catchy songs that will have you singing along and tapping your feet.

It tells the story of three very different women living in a busy city and working in an even busier office, dominated by sexist men. It shows how each of them are pushed to boiling point by their sexist and egotistical boss and how they join together and make an unlikely alliance to bring him down. It shows how they formed an unlikely friendship and it also documents the very real struggles of women at that time, but in a feel good way with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton.

The show has earned rave reviews and I can see why, it is such a feel good show and the actors and actresses were truly amazing and could belt out the songs at the top of their lungs. The whole cast put in a truly amazing, fast paced and energetic performances. It was non-stop from beginning to the end and the audience was taken along for the ride. The show was surprisingly rude in places, and for this reason has been rated 12+. But it is done in a very tongue-in-cheek 80s way, that will have you holding your sides with laughter from the opening act. The whole cast looked like they really enjoyed performing the show and this enthusiasm spilled out into the audience.

The stage is very simple, it is framed by banks of vintage computers, which also, cleverly provide the lighting, the backdrop is a screen which changes to represent the city, or the main office where most people work, the CEO’s office, the staffroom and the rooftop. It is cleverly used to imitate an elevator going up and down as well. The props on the stage are simple, such as desks, chairs, walls, office equipment that all help add to the authenticity of it being an office. I especially liked the rotating doors of the building, they were used very cleverly and for comic value. All props were moved on and off the stage by the cast and this was done in such a seamless way as they made their way onto the stage.

My favourite prop and probably the most photographed before the show began was the large, glittery 9 to 5 sign that cleverly used an old fashioned alarm clock as the o in the word to. This ‘o’ became a screen at the beginning of the show and up on the screen popped the legend, Dolly Parton herself who sang and cleverly narrated the beginning of the show. Upon her appearance on the screen, the audience cheered. She also returned to narrate the end of the show explaining what happened to the characters later in life. This was a highlight of the show for me. What a legend she is.

The characters 80s costumes, hairstyles and make up were very authentic, taking power dressing to a whole new level and made me nostalgic for the 80s.

The three main characters were Violet Newstead, a widow and mother of a teenage boy, who had worked at the office for many years and was fighting against the men for a promotion, she was played by the amazing Louise Redknapp, Judy Bernly, a soon to be divorced young woman who had never had a job in her life, played by the very talented Amber Davies and Doralee Rhodes, the thought to be ‘tart with a heart mistress of the CEO’ and my personal favourite character played by the brilliantly cast, Georgina Castle. Each made the characters their own and were not a caricature of the characters in the films. Each woman spoke and sang with very convincing American accents and were very believable in their roles and portrayed each of their characters in a heart-warming, believable way. They are all amazing singers and were note perfect when singing. The music and the lyrics just added to the telling of their stories and their struggles to overcome the oppression of men. My favourite of the three main characters was Doralee, Georgina Castle was so believable and played her in such a way that you couldn’t help but love and feel sorry for her misunderstood character. It was lovely to see her portray her as her own character and not as a Dolly Parton caricature, which could easily have been done.

It was brilliant to watch the transformation of each of the three main characters from down on their luck, downtrodden women in a man’s world, to the strong, independent women they became and this is down to the spectacular performances of the three main leads. The supporting cast were amazing too, especially Sean Needham played the ‘sexist and egotistical’ CEO of the company, Franklin Hart Jnr ably assisted by his PA, the hysterically funny Roz Keith, played fantastically by the very comically talented Lucinda Lawrence. Sean played him so well, making you as a member of the audience love to hate him, just like any evil villain of a piece. But you couldn’t help but laugh at him, the surprising bedroom/wardrobe scene had me clapping my hand to mouth and gasping in shock, before shaking with hysterical laughter and at the end of act one and the beginning of the interval, you will want to ‘hang around’ as Sean looks just so funny.

Lucinda, plays Roz brilliantly as Hart’s spy in the office, the woman most people try to avoid and who is secretly in love with Mr Hart. The scene in which she professes her love to him had me crying with laughter. She put in such an incredible comic performance as did Sean throughout the show.

Another comic performance that needs mentioning was that of Laura Tryer who played the office alcoholic Margaret, who knew someone make a drunk funny, she had great comedic timing and I loved her transformation at the end too.

I urge everyone to go and see it, you do not have to be a fan of the film or a fan of Dolly Parton or even a fan of musicals to enjoy this ‘rip-roaringly funny’ musical. It is a light-hearted, side splitting, way to spend an evening and judging by the laughter and the singing from the audience and the comments I overheard as the show ended, I do not think a single person did not have a great time watching this show.

I give this show 5 out of 5, but I would give it more if I could. I will definitely be buying tickets to see it again as it travels the country and I urge you to buy your tickets quick too, you will not be disappointed.

I watched 9 to 5 the musical at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. I have never visited the theatre before and it was such a lovely venue close to parking and within easy walking distance of Birmingham New Street station. It is a smaller theatre than I was expecting, but such a great venue, having just had a refurbishment. All staff I met were lovely and polite, especially the lovely lady who directed us to our seats in the stalls. The bars were well stocked with all the typical drinks and snacks you would expect at a theatre. The theatre was clean and tidy and the toilet facilities were ample, but there was some queuing, which is to be expected, but these were also clean and tidy. It is such a lovely theatre and as it is easy to get to from the train station, I will be keeping an eye on what shows they have coming up in the future and will be a returning patron.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).

9 to 5 The Musical is at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from 6-14 September 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/birmingham or call the box office on 0844 871 3011.

The Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS

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