‘9 To 5 The Musical’ (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

After 545 days of closure, the Edinburgh Playhouse shined like the sun last night as Dolly Parton’s iconic musical ‘ 9 To 5’ re-opened the UK’s largest theatre. Based on the 1980s motion picture, ‘9 To 5’ follows the stories of Violet Newstead, Judy Bernly and Doralee Rhodes as they struggle in a male dominated world. Eventually it all comes too much for these three strong women and they put a plan into action. 

Louise Redknapp as Violet perfectly captures a woman struggling in a suffocating job. The hints of Violet’s true destiny are there from the start with Louise presenting us with an intelligent and confident character compared to Violet’s male counterparts. Louise also delivers great dance and vocal skill, especially in the number ‘One of the Boys’. 

Vivian Panka truly portrays Judy’s journey from a timid young girl into a proud and independent woman perfectly. Vivian’s vocal talent is a standout in this production, her rendition of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ is simply stunning and a real showstopper.  Stephanie Chandos as Doralee is hilarious. The quirky and Dolly inspired characteristics are all there, delivered with such sass and superb vocals to match. 

Louise, Vivian and Stephanie have a superb dynamic together, one of my highlights has to be ‘Shine Like the Sun’ this is a truly uplifting and hilarious moment in the show. 

Julia J Nagle was side splittingly funny as Roz Keith. Julia’s cookie and rather demented portrayal of Roz was so much fun to watch, especially the musical number ‘Heart to Hart’, I still don’t think I’ve recovered. Sean Needham was simply outstanding as Franklin Hart Jnr. His portrayal of the sleazy boss hooked the audience instantly. Sean does not miss a beat when it comes to embracing the comedic suggestions in the script, especially during ‘Here for You’. You both love and hate this character by the time the show is finished. 

This production features a hugely energetic and talented ensemble. The ensemble are as follows; Alexander Bartles, Clayton Rosa, Callum Henderson, Demmileigh Foster, Emily Bull, Emily Woodford, Grace Walker, Jon Reynolds (Swing), Joshua Lear (Swing), Kirsty Annie Shaw (Swing), Rebekah Bryant, Ricardo Spriggs, Richard Taylor Woods, Russell Dickson, Ross Lee Fowkes, Sarah-Marie Maxwell, Sierra Brewerton (Swing) and Sonny Grieveson. 

Dolly Parton’s music and lyrics are sublime in this musical. You go in expecting to hear purely country western music and instead you are blessed with some insanely catchy musical theatre hits. Patricia Resnick’s book for this musical transfers the motion picture brilliantly to stage, capturing the characters and narrative almost identically, but adapting the story so that the addition of musical numbers does not seem jarring. Jeff Calhoun’s direction of this musical delivers a contemporary and colorful interpretation of this classic Hollywood hit. Jeff’s vision is the reason this musical resonates with audiences more than previous touring productions. Lisa Steven’s dazzling quick paced, varied and complex choreography adds another layer to this production, continuing to make it fresh and contemporary. Tom Rogers’ design is minimalistic yet perfectly captures each setting along with Howard Hudson’s colourful lighting design and Nina Dunn’s impressive video design. At points however, the scene transitions with physical set can be quite clunky. None the less the full space is used appropriately and Tom’s costume design is stunning. 

Overall, ‘9 To 5 The Musical’ is a fantastic uplifting production which features amazing musical numbers and a superbly talented cast. After 16 months of no theatre, Dolly Parton’s hit musical is a heavenly tonic. The Edinburgh Playhouse is back with a bang! 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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