Monday, 4 September 2017

REVIEW: 9 to 5 at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Eight years since the original Broadway production, 9 to 5 makes its UK Fringe premiere with a new production directed by Joseph Hodges. 

The story highlights the problems with equality in the work place, something we still are battling now. Perhaps not in the same way but it is still prominent in our society today. 

Patricia Resnicks book is hilarious, filled with dry humour and fluidity within the story it is a perfect match for the brilliant and fun score by Dolly Parton. I forgot how good this show actually is but by revisiting the material in this new production, it brought back all those memories of when I used to listen to the soundtrack on repeat!

Unfortunately this production fails to deliver any kind of interesting or new take on the show.

Our first visit to Upstairs at the Gatehouse, I was pleasantly surprised with the space. Its an interesting, intimate but still spacious theatre. This production was just a little too adventurous. Maybe with a larger cast on a bigger scale the ideas and choreography would have worked but here it just didn't fall into place. 

The piece came across as a little messy and too complicated, things need to be stripped back a lot for this to work.

The set was too complicated and made you feel uneasy with the amount of moving that was done. When you over complicate things it becomes messy. 

Joseph Hodges slightly misses the mark with this musical, scenes seemed to lack direction or substance and we didn't care for any of the characters, we just looked forward to the next good song. A new director and producer on the scene, his work has major potential and we are excited to see more from him. 

Chris Whittaker choreographed this production and although it was interesting and good choreography executed wonderfully by the incredibly talented cast it was too much and not needed in this intimate space. Unnecessary moments were added in and it broke me out of the piece. The ensemble don’t need to come on for every number with a dance break, especially not in a space like this. Out of place and unnecessary. 

The cast were fantastically put together by Harry Blumenau; Amanda Coutts, Pippa Winslow and Louise Olley as Judy, Violet and Doralee were perfectly cast and all showed moments of brilliance in the piece. Coutts vocals were outstanding and transported me to somewhere much bigger then the Gatehouse, Winslow is a phenomenal actress and the part could have been written for her and Olley didn't play a version of Dolly Parton but played a character based on the material which turned out to be a wonderful performance. 

Leo SenĂ© plays Franklin Hart in this production and I must praise his comic timing, his best moments were in his ad-libs and small moments which stole the scenes for me. A natural and hilarious performer. 

Roz has been cast younger than I imagine the role but it works with Samantha Giffards performance, I do wish she was slightly more geekey however her sexy side and her huge belt just made the role something totally new and different. 

The strongest aspect of the show are their fantastic ensemble; Rachel Ivy, Mark Houston, Sophie Wallis, Matthew Chase and Blair Anderson saved the show. Their efficiency and performances just made the show. And a special mention to both girls, Sophie Wallis and Rachel Ivy, who stood out.

This show has a strong ensemble of actors and very good base material but it is far too complicated. Maybe this show just doesn't work in a fringe environment? Ideas were there, the execution, was not. Plunge some more money into this production and it would be a hit! 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★
Blog Design by pipdig