Richmond Theatre played host to the opening night of Ambassador Theatre Group’s 9 to 5 The Musical, which did not fail to impress – the highly-anticipated UK tour had finally arrived in London. When those all-important chords of the title song began and the curtain rose, the audience knew they were in for a treat. Everyone was up for a good time after their own 9-5, ready to immerse themselves in the fabulousness of Patricia Resnick’s creation and, of course, Dolly Parton’s unmistakeable soundtrack.
The show is based on mistreated 1960s officer workers who are constantly beaten down by their bigoted bosses, and turn the tables on them, literally as well as figuratively. In some visually wonderful ensemble sequences, you just didn’t know where to look at any one time.
Unfortunately, the brilliance of the songs is not always matched by the action and overarching storyline. Fantastically quirky scenes included a hilarious marijuana-induced trip, but were followed by an entire second act featuring “bad boss” Franklyn J Hart (Mark Moraghan) being hung from the ceiling in his own bedroom. This did not pay credit to Moraghan’s fine performance of the misogynist in the first act. He was brought on and taken off repeatedly, as if the playwright had run out of ideas at this point.
What made the show stand out was its carefully considered elements. The appearance of Dolly hovering over the stage and addressing the audience from her desk in Hollywood, was strangely omniscient. To know that Dolly had been such an involved party in the creation of this musical provided a sense of authenticity. The inevitable Dolly figure was present by cutesy Doralee (Amy Lennox), a blonde bombshell with brains and bite. I began to crave the scenes where Lennox would sing alone, as her voice could easily be mistaken for the folk icon herself. Her acting was slick, with an impressive demonstration of sass in her impeccable comedy timing.
The casting of Bonnie Langford was inspired, with her role enlivening the inevitable lulls in a somewhat threadbare plot. The role of office pet was embodied in Langford’s small stature and ability to gauge audience reaction and work it into her performance. Asides were exaggerated, gestures heightened. Kenneth Foy’s set design was bright and enticing, but also versatile. A lot was able to be done with a relatively small collection of props, which on the whole made the entire performance run very smoothly.
The female power house and CEO-in-waiting was Violet (Gemma Maclean). She was the intended heroine, deserving of the character’s managerial success at the end. Her solo number ‘One of the Guys’ was feisty and definitely something every woman in the audience wanted to get up and sing. The third revolutionary office worker was plain Judy (Natalie Casey), yet her song ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ was one of the stand-out moments of the entire show.
As with many musicals based on overwhelmingly successful artists and song collections, the content of the piece was not entirely brilliant. However, we were still given all we asked for and more. The music was captivating, the dancing and acting talent was solid and, most importantly, the audience seemed to leave having loved every single minute of it.
9 to 5 The Musical is playing at the Richmond Theatre until 16 February. For more information and tickets, see Richmond Theatre’s website.