9 to 5 (Savoy Theatre)

Caroline Sheen, Amber Davies and Natalie McQueen
Caroline Sheen, Amber Davies and Natalie McQueen.

The girl-power film which shone in the 80s now comes to the stage in the form of Dolly Parton’s frothy musical 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre. Originally due to close this month, it has since been extended, partially recast, and will run in tandem with a UK tour. Now seemed a good time for a visit.

The scene before the show begins.
The scene before the show begins.

The clock we see at the top of the show becomes a video screen on which the Queen of Country starts up the title song and then introduces the main female characters: Violet (a steely Caroline Sheen), Doralee (bubbly Dollyish Natalie McQueen), and Judy (stunning debut from Amber Davies, who leaves the show today).

They all work in the same office, and it is Judy’s first day in her first job after her husband Dick (leading to many double entendre jokes around his name) leaves her for a teenage bit of fluff.

Bonnie Langford as Ros
Bonnie Langford as Ros.

The office is run as a soulless automation by leering and sexist boss Franklin Hart Jr (a scene-stealing Brian Conley), supported by memo-crazed and sex-starved company spy Ros (Bonnie Langford). Together these supply a huge amount of comic relief as she literally lets her hair down and he gets his comeuppence.

Amber Davies as Judy
Amber Davies as Judy.

9 to 5 is a fun show which doesn’t take itself too seriously, and to be honest, even if they are performed well, doesn’t have particularly memorable songs. What it does have is a way for a woman to get the upper hand which still draws applause today, and an accomplished use of the Savoy’s deep and high stage.

The dance sequences by Lisa Stevens are excellent, particularly in the One of the Boys number, and there’s a rooftop scene which will bring a smile to your face. And, of course, Dolly’s back in virtual form by the end to tell us how the characters fared in later life.

Directed by Jeff Calhoun, the musical may not leave with you humming the songs, but you will have a smile on your face. I wouldn’t recommend taking the kids along, though.

Photo credits Pamela Raith.