Thursday, 17 October 2019

REVIEW: 9 to 5 at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Dolly Parton presents 9 to 5, a superbly assembled cheese-fest of a musical based on the film of the same name, starring none other than Dolly herself. Following the story of 3 women, each subjected to sexual discrimination and inequality in the workplace, 9 to 5 is a hugely uplifting fun night at the theatre for newcomers and seasoned visitors alike. 

Via pre-recorded video, Dolly sets the tone for the show with narrations introducing us to our leading ladies and even kicks of the singing of the title song. 1) Violet Newstead, played by Laura Tyrer, is a working mother who’s spent years working for ‘Consolidated Industries’ as reaches her breaking point after she misses out on a promotion to a younger male colleague who she trained. 2) Judy Bernly, played by Amber Davies (of Love Island fame), a 21 year-old embarking on her first ever job after leaving her husband when she discovered he’d had an affair with his 19 year-old secretary, and finally 3) “Backwoods Barbie” Doralee Rhodes played by Georgina Castle, the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the original film. Doralee is happily married but after her loud-mouthed boss starts spreading rumours that he and Doralee are having an affair, the ladies of the office turn their back on her and judge this blonde-bombshell all too quickly. “We don’t like her” says Violet…. 

This feminist fun-fest of a musical sees Violet, Judy and Doralee embark on a fight for equality in the most ridiculous of ways - there are ball-gags, rat poison and spliffs involved… It’s wonderful fun; comedic and empowering all at once. The audience at the New Victoria Theatre was packed to the rafters and hugely responsive to this wonderful show. If you were fast enough to buy a ticket, you’re in luck - (the run has almost completely sold out at time of publishing). 

The set and costume design work in magnificent harmony and are as bold and in-your-face as Doralee’s famous assets. This production is a visual delight and simply does not feel like a tour. It is a monumental effort and fills the New Victoria Theatre with light and energy. We begin in a monochromatic office with highlights of red (in buttons, lipsticks and shoes) - very cleverly done. No major spoilers here but during the comeuppance of Franklin Hart Jr (played brilliantly by Sean Needham) we see a huge shift in the colours on the stage and it only adds to the glorious fun of the evening. 

Amber Davies’s portrayal of Judy is a show-stealer. Davies was subjected to hugely unfair criticisms when her casting in the West End production was announced following her victory of the 2017 series of Love Island- branded as “stunt casting”, but she is sensational and deserves every moment in the spotlight. Her solo “Get Out and Stay Out” is one of the best vocals I’ve heard this year. Laura Tyrer’s performance is wonderfully light and works well alongside the other ladies. Georgina Castle’s Doralee is similarly fun and though her inconsistent southern accent distracted me a little, it was a solid performance. Honourable mention to Lucinda Lawrence as the brilliantly funny Roz Keith; the overwhelmingly smitten secretary to Franklin Hart Jr who transforms from a frumpy bespectacled sheep to a corset, suspender and stocking wearing sex kitten. 

9 to 5 is not subtle in any way, it’s almost like a pantomime but there’s no harm
in that, infact it’s quite refreshing. “I bet in 10 years they won't even be talking about this any more” says Violet when discussing women’s equality, yet here we are in a world of #MeToo and #TimesUp where this narrative is as powerful as ever. Dolly Parton says in the programme notes “…in the last few years, there’s been a bit of cold water of reality thrown in the faces of younger women. I think that’s a good thing, because you can’t change the world until you recognise what needs changing.” 

9 to 5 is a delicious dose of Dolly delight - one for all the ladies out there in need of a good night out. 

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★★ 

Seat: H4, Stalls | Price of Ticket: £45.00 (Plus Booking Fee, Via ATG)
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