With much hype and enthusiasm, Dolly Parton’s 9to5 The Musical arrived in Adelaide to golden sparkles and bold colour.
Based on the hit 1980 film of the same name, with music and lyrics by Parton herself, book by Patricia Resnick [the original screenwriter of the movie], this musical is [surprise, surprise!] still pertinent today – 40 years after it’s release.
Originally pitched by Jane Fonda to make a political statement about women’s rights at the time, but make it comedy so it is more palatable, it follows the work lives of aspiring CEO Violet Newstead, Southern Belle Doralee Rhodes and newly divorced Judy Bernley. Increasingly anxious and annoyed with their misogynistic boss Franklin Hart Jnr they come together to take control of their office with uproarious results!
Opening with the massive 9to5 sign and a big ‘wahoo’, Dolly Parton herself introduces the show via recorded video projection with some fun references to Adelaide.
Leading into her hit song ‘9 to 5’ and joined by the rest of the cast, Parton makes appearances throughout the show, almost narrating the story. This sets the tone for a night of playful, satirical entertainment!
Apart from the title track, all the songs were written for the musical, but have that distinct Dolly flair and country sound, that it feels like you’ve heard them before.
The set, decked out in 80s style computers framing the stage, and the actors all wearing versions of red, black and white, except for Judy, who brightens up the stage with her purple ensemble, is a vision. Kudos to designer Tom Rogers who recreated 80s skyscrapers, office blocks and Howard Hudson’s splendid lighting made the Festival Theatre stage look twice as big.
The era defined and appropriate choreography by Lisa Stevens was equally slick, bright and Broadway tight.
Rounding out the creative team is director Jeff Calhoun who runs a snappy ship with the ensemble, some of which are proudly Adelaide born and bred, namely Matthew Prime, Jordan Tomljenovic and Lily Baulderstone who were suitably vibrant, talented and energetic.
But it is the outstanding leads that this show is blessed with.
Marina Prior as Violet Newstead, the senior supervisor at Consolidated Industries, constantly overlooked for promotion in favour of the less experienced men, delivers her signature shrill that she is famous for. She adds depth and authenticity to Violet, usually not seen in musicals.
The blonde bombshell Doralee, Hart’s personal secretary wrongfully accused of having an affair with him, is played by the divine Erin Clare, channelling her best Dolly Parton. Clare is strong but smooth and has the most charming country trill in her voice, especially evident in her swan song ‘Backwards Barbie’. She also delivers the best and most famous line ‘I’m gonna get that gun of mine and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!’
Casey Donovan has now cemented herself as a bonafide musical theatre star after her turn as Judy Bernly; the timid and tuneful mistreated woman growing lusciously into her power. This is evident in her change of costume and her pitch perfect performance in every song. Her delivery of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ is a gob-smacking moment of theatre.
Arrogant, pompous, smarmy and sexist Franklin Hart Jnr is played hilariously by Eddie Perfect with an air of Donald Trump about him. His rendition of ‘Here for You’ leaves his innocent Play School persona behind, and he portrays this womansier boss with almost too much believability.
Icon, National Treasure and musical theatre monarch, Caroline O’Connor portrays Roz Keith, Hart’s personal assistant, who is so in love with him, that she snoops and demoralises the other women in the office all the while squeezing every possible laugh and jeer from the audience. Her solo number ‘Heart to Hart’ showed why her career has spanned decades – her slapstick comedic timing, and unparalleled vocals are worth the ticket price alone!
These four perfectly cast women are epic – delivering the show’s premise of feminism, women’s rights, friendship and camaraderie with spectacular sincerity and earning spontaneous cheers and roars from all the audience.
So set your alarm for a great night out with this joyous smash hit musical – leave your worries at the door as you escape the daily grind with 9to5!