I’m not sure how I managed to miss the West End production when it opened back in February. Thankfully, the same show is now touring the UK right through this year and next. With a catchy score from Dolly Parton – who also starred in the 1980 film alongside Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda – and a book from Patricia Resnick, the production is packing them in up and down the country… this week at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre.
The comedy-musical did originally open on Broadway in 2009 but closed six months later, before touring the US the following year and UK in 2012. However, with the current social climate – especially in the wake of the #metoo movement – it has meant that the time is now absolutely right for a show such as this to capture the country’s imagination.
Judy Bernly has just joined Consolidated Industries and must clock into her new 9-to-5 routine alongside the likes of Violet and Doralee each day. However, their chauvinistic and lecherous boss, Franklin Hart Jr., is making the lives hell of all female employees as he still boasts all the traits from a male-dominated era when women should behave like good little wives, do as they’re told, get their bums pinched… and make the coffee.
The ‘girls’ fight back by deciding to kidnap their boss and run the company the way it should be run; and would you believe it, productivity and profit increase accordingly. Despite senior member of staff, Roz, being secretly infatuated with and supporting Hart Jr., the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Tinsworthy, is impressed with the company turnaround and sends the old-fashioned boss to the far corners of the earth… while appointing Violet Newstead as the new CEO. Hoorah!
The touring show – which is pretty much a carbon copy of the West End production – is slickly performed by a cast of over twenty and runs like an express train. Even Dolly Parton makes a cameo onscreen-appearance to the audience at both ends of the show.
Amber Davies (Love Island winner in 2017) has come from the London show to tour the role of Judy Bernly, while Laura Tyrer and Georgina Castle bring us Violet Newstead and Doralee Rhodes respectively (Louise Redknapp plays Violet at other selected tour venues). Rhodes is a very tall version of Dolly Parton, but gives an impressive Southern Gal, complete with blonde curls. Davies also does well as the naïve office newby who quickly embeds herself into the status quo, but it is Tyrer who tends to steal the show as Violet leads the trio in their rebellion.
I’m sure Brian Conley makes an outstanding Franklin Hart Jr. in London, but on the road Sean Needham is equal to the task with a deliciously confident performance as the tyrannical womaniser. Likewise Bonny Langford’s West End performance as Roz (a role she also toured seven years ago) is replicated well by Lucinda Lawrence, although I doubt the latter makes her mark as well as Ms Langford is almost certainly doing in the capital.
The show is a real crowd-pleaser; glitzy, shiny, feel-good and, as mentioned, filled with Parton’s catchy numbers. I’m glad I’ve now seen it and I can eventually what all the fuss is about.
More at: https://9to5themusical.co.uk/tour