REVIEW: 9 to 5 The Musical (Opera House, Manchester – UK Tour)

Last night I was fortunate to be at one of the first performances of the new (to the UK) theatre show, 9 to 5 The Musical, based on the fantastic 80s film of the same name, originally starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

9 to 5 The Musical had some pretty mixed successes/reviews stateside during both its Broadway and touring run, and was also the recipient of several Tony award and Drama Desk nominations (with a Drama Desk Award win for Allison Janney, who was the original Violet Newstead).

Having previously heard the cast recording online, I was a little hesitant about what to expect from a UK Tour of this show. Nevertheless, I was THAT person who waited until the exact minute of the show launch (9 minutes to 5) and probably the first person in the UK to buy a ticket to see 9 to 5 The Musical.

I mentioned the cast recording a moment ago (which you can click below to play if you have Spotify), and whilst packed with amazing Broadway talent and penned by Ms Dolly herself, in places I feel they have not managed to catch all of the energy that the stage show itself has, which is a shame.

With all that said, and my initial reservations laid out, after seeing this show in person, I must clock my opinion in right now (I’ll try to keep the puns to a minimum!), and say that I thought that it was FANTASTIC!

I get to see a lot of theatre each year/season, and I have to say, it was the best thing that I have seen this year! Perhaps as I wasn’t expecting as much as I got, and also as it was genuinely awesome, it totally smacked me right between the eyes!

The cast are, genuinely, phenomenal, and have a great deal of theatrical experience between them.

Amy Lennox as Dora Lee manages to fill Dolly’s massive… shoes(!)… perfectly, with Natalie Casey (perhaps best known as Donna in Two Pints of Lager – BBC Three) proving the big surprise of the night, in her role as Judy. For me, the character of Violet, played by Jackie Clune was absolutely knockout, and really was the lynchpin of the show – as with the film, her character was totally my favourite of the three.

Ben Richards as Mr Franklin Hart Jr was very entertaining, and really fit the role well, with the incomparable Bonnie Langford as his doting assistant Roz Keith. Speaking of Bonnie, I cannot tell you just how fantastic she looks, to the degree that I didn’t even notice that it was her, and was genuinely disappointed that we’d not got her at our performance. Worryingly, it wasn’t until she got her costume off and was dancing around the stage in her undercrackers that I recognised her – golly! haha! She absolutely steals the show in my opinion – long live Ms Langford!

The ensemble do a great job at keeping the show together, and the sets moving, and vocally they all blend very nicely, which is something that you don’t often get in regional theatre, as they simply don’t have enough people.

In the spirit of the show ( 😉 ) I have, dear reader, picked out three samples of ensemble totty for you to watch out for:-

(Disclaimer, other totty may/does exist!)

– Just call me Mr Franklin Hart Jr, haha!

Of course, if goes without saying, they’re fantastic in what they do in the show also.

Also, absolutely no UK musical is complete without a Strallen sister, and so it was great to see Sasi Strallen in the ensemble of 9 to 5 The Musical as well.

Technically, we had a few problems at our performance, but definitely nothing to begrudge the production for. There were bad sound issues during the song ‘Let Love Grow’, during which the microphone simply cut out/we had a lot of static coming through the sound system (though the cast worked through this magnificently), and from where we were sat (F5 and F6, Stalls) we could frequently see the stage management team, and at one point, one of the curtains was left open and we could see cast members walking around behind the sets etc. All minor things, and it should be noted that this is only one of the first performances with an audience, and these things will very quickly get ironed out, maybe even as soon as tonight’s Opening Night performance.

The musical comes incredibly close to the film version, which I’d rank as one of my favourites of all time, and for that, I think that the creative team, led by Dolly, and directed in the UK by Broadway’s Jeff Calhoun, deserve a massive ovation. In terms of the show, I’d say West End quality on a touring circuit, and it’s great that this show was included under the ‘Manchester Gets It First’ banner.

The only gripe that I have? That the show is only in each city for one week only – so if you want to see it, you’ve gotta get in quickly!! I’m sure that it will attract a West End transfer, however, so if garnering grass-roots support across the UK helps to speed this transition up, I’m all for the short runs.

As a massive Dolly fan, it was great to see all the video interactions, especially those personalised bits towards the end, and when we got a bit of 9 to 5 from Dolly herself for the encore, we ended the show giving an ovation and having a bit of a boogie!

Whilst Dolly isn’t in the show in person, her presence is clearly felt throughout the show, and it’s very clear that she’s put her own stamp on to this production through the book, songs and casting choices that have been made – it just added that extra ‘sparkle’ to it. Her knack for good old-fashioned country story-telling really comes in handy here, and from her opening word, you find yourself drawn in to the show.

I am also loving how much Dolly is involved in all of the marketing for the production – below is the radio advert that we’ve been enjoying in Manchester over the last few weeks:

If 9 to 5 The Musical is coming to your town/city, then I cannot implore you enough to go and see this show – I promise you that you will not regret it!

9 to 5 The Musical is currently touring the United Kingdom, with the hope of an ultimate West End transfer. For all information relating to the show, including ticketing, please visit the show’s official website.

Current information is that the current cast are with the production until February 3rd 2013.

The run time on 9 to 5 The Musical currently seems to be around 2 hours 15 mins, including interval – we were outside by 21:50 from a 19:30 start.

My related tweets from last night (in chronological order): 

About Gari

Northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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