things to do in October

Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

A whole lot of fun, says Jenny Booth


Grab a ticket to 9 to 5 The Musical if you can because the touring production currently at New Wimbledon Theatre is a riot from start to finish. Dolly Parton’s iconic opening number grabs you at once, and after that the pace never dips. The acting is slick, the dancing is high energy, the comic business is naughty and hilarious. The stunning lighting design by Howard Hudson oozes West End wow factor. The vocal line up led by Louise Redknapp is excellent. Any member of the audience not foot-tapping or singing along should probably check their pulse.

It’s curious to remember that the critics didn’t actually get on with 9 to 5 when the original film came out in 1980. “Too strident” said some, annoyed by its no-holds-barred assault on male sexism in the workplace. “Too silly” said others, perhaps feeling that a plot that involved three women kidnapping their boss and holding him hostage for a month while they transformed the office had no right to be taken seriously. But the film was massive at the box office, which goes to show that critics can be poor judges of public opinion. Forty years on, it is much easier to just relax and see the story for the wickedly funny escapism it is.

The baddies put in strong performances which ensures the show is well-balanced. Sean Needham as evil boss Franklin Hart Jr is a magnetic pantomime villain, able to reduce the audience to laughter with a cocked eyebrow even while suspended above the stage in a gimp outfit and swinging to and fro like a pendulum. Ballet-trained Julia J Nagle is brilliantly horrid and lithe as a serpent as Hart’s worshipping sidekick, the power-crazy Roz. Vivian Panka as Judy and Stephanie Chandos in the Dolly Parton role of Doralee, both relatively new to the UK stage, give their two-dimensional heroine roles the right degree of hamminess. By comparison, Redknapp’s acting seems a touch contained and understated in the first half; but once she lets rip in the song ‘One of the Boys’ at the start of Act 2, everything falls into place. The chairman of the board turns up to bring about the happy ending, and the whole proceedings are bookended with charming and quirky recorded messages from Dolly Parton herself. Yes, it is silly, but it is inspired silliness.

On at New Wimbledon Theatre until 23 October