REVIEW: 9 to 5 … it’s a Dolly good musical

It’s a case of rolling back the years at Milton Keynes Theatre this week as a brand spanking new musical comedy version of the 1980 hit film comedy ‘9 to 5’ hits the stage.

By Alan Wooding
Tuesday, 5th March 2013, 9:53 am

With both the show’s music and lyrics penned by bubbly, busty, blonde bombshell Dolly Parton, ‘9 to 5’ features plenty of hilarious office humour, accidental poisoning and kidnapping while it is set in 1979 … a pre-computer and mobile phones age!

There’s plenty of ‘girl power’ with the three female leads getting to grips with an obnoxious chauvinist pig of a male boss.

If you’re old enough to remember the film, which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly herself, then this new musical version remains true to the original storyline. And by a strange quirk of fate, the film was actually shown on television at 11pm on Sunday night on the Film 4 channel!

Dolly has had a huge input in the new musical and has written several new songs for this fast and furious show. She also introduces the main characters on film, appearing above the stage in the face of the office clock.

Ms Parton’s film character, Doralee Rhodes, is now beautifully played by Amy Lennox (Liesel in ‘The Sound of Music’ at the London Palladium). In fact her voice sounds uncannily like the Tennesee-born singer-songwriting star while her ‘enhanced’ bosom clearly adds the illusion that it’s Dolly herself!

The other members of the office trio are widowed mother of seven Violet Newstead played by Jackie Clone (Donna in Mamma Mia) who is angry at being overlooked for promotion by a man she has trained, and former ‘Hollyoaks’ and ‘Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps’ actress Natalie Casey.

Natalie plays typing pool newcomer Judy, an abandoned and downtrodden divorcee whose ex-husband, the aptly-named Dick, deserted her for his 19-year-old secretary although he tries to win her back and gets a rebuff.

Once she finds her feet, Judy is joined by Doralee and Violet in leading the singing of the catchy ‘Sexist, Egotoistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot’ aimed at their sleazy office boss, Franklyn J Hart.

For fans of tv’s popular medical drama ‘Holby City’, they should instantly recognise Liverpudlian actor Mark Moraghan in the role of Hart. For four years he played hospital consultant Owen Davies after a spell in Brookside, while in ‘9 to 5’ he plays the lecherous office boss complete with a 1980s-style Burt Reynolds moustache!

However, perhaps the best known cast member is 48-year-old Bonnie Langford. She plays the lovestruck Roz Keith, the plain Jane-type office secretary who has the hots for her sexist boss.

An accomplished dancer, singer and actress, Bonnie rose to fame as a six-year-old when she won the 1970 talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks’ – the forerunner of today’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ – and she still has all the moves, especially when it came to her sultry dance routine.

In it she strips away her wig and glasses to reveal a sexy basque, stockings and suspenders in a bold but unsuccessful bid to tempt her employer, the tango-type routine with Hart (Moraghan) brilliantly choreographed while she sings ‘Heart to Hart’.

The show opens in the office with all the key characters and Ensemble singing the catchy ‘9 to 5’ which features throughout and while Dolly Parton’s additional numbers are not especially memorable, all are sung superbly by the show’s strong cast.

In fact it was hearing Moraghan singing ‘Hear for You’ which surprised many of the packed opening night audience, his powerful voice something of a revelation.

The dream sequence – after the girls sat smoking ‘pot’ – which featured so strongly in the film, was well adapted on stage ... Judy threatening to shoot Hart with a revolver, Violet dreaming of poisoning him and Doralee ‘hog tying’ him.

And of course that’s exactly what happens for real later in the show as Voilet puts rat poison in Hart’s coffee having mistaken it for his regular sugar supplement box of ‘Skinny & Sweet’.

Falling from his faulty office chair and banging his head, Hart ends up in hospital where the guilt-ridden trio are mistaken into thinking he has died. Thinking that if they get rid of Hart’s body they can avoid an autopsy, they kidnap a corpse only to discover that Hart is alive a well.

But he is then kidnapped at gun point and taken to his own home in the boot of Judy’s car before being tied up and suspended from a hoist. Hart is held prisoner there by his three employees who discover he’s been robbing the company, selling its stock and pocketing the cash.

The upshot is that things at the office improve for everyone while Voilet ends up being made CEO by company owner Mr Tinsworthy (Marlon Moore) who is impressed by the improved productivity while Hart is ordered to go and work in BolIvia … even though it was definitely Brazil in the film!

There are excellent and very strong performances from all the main characters while Violet’s love interest Joe (Mark Willshire) and drunken office lush Margaret (Lori Haley Fox) were particularly impressive.

The slick dance routines and seamless adjusting of the sets - especially the desks and in Hart’s office and bedroom - kept things flowing beautifully while for me the show’s best song was the poignant ‘Backwoods Barbie’ sung in the first act by Doralee (Lennox).

Author Patricia Resnick’s storyline itself is weak and very predictable but that’s probably the strength of ‘9 to 5 The Musical’. I felt exactly the same when I first saw Mamma Mia and just look at the success that that’s had!

It’s fun-packed throughout, is superbly acted and while it’s perhaps a show aimed at a female audience, there were equally as many men in the auditorium … and they all seemed to love it!

‘9 to 5’ runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday with tickets from the box office on 08448 717652.