There are some people in the world that are true beacons of joy, who bring light, laughter and positivity wherever they go. One such person is the incomparable Dolly Parton, whose production of 9 to 5 The Musical is an extension of the singer’s lust for life.
The hit West End musical opened in Melbourne featuring an all-star cast of Eddie Perfect, Casey Donovan, Marina Prior, Caroline O’Connor and Erin Clare and is based on the 1980 film of the same name that starred, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and of course Dolly Parton.
The musical stays true to the original plot of the film but has been jam-packed with Parton’s pop/country tunes to ensure there is never a dull moment. Our heroine’s, Violet, Judy and Doralee (Prior, Donovan and Clare) are the underpaid, underappreciated and overworked trio trying to make it in 1980s corporate America despite the best efforts of their misogynistic boss Frank Hart Junior (Perfect). Along with his sidekick Roz (O’Connor), Hart is the a-typical villain who’s delightfully easy to hate as he epitomises all that is wrong with the patriarchy. Perfect is hilariously unpleasant and hams up the character with such joy it’s wonderful to see his ultimate demise.
As one of Australia’s more famous exports of musical theatre, O’Connor has an impressive resume of international productions, and while she may not be the lead in this show, she has plenty of scene stealing moments and songs as the lovesick Roz.
Donovan shines in her role which was originated by Jane Fonda and has taken cues from the original performance bringing a lightness and gentleness to the role. Donovan has come so far since her early days of reality television and her acting has improved significantly. She of course caused a stir with her moving performance of “Get Out and Stay Out” bringing the audience to their feet with a standing ovation (something I have seen time and time again with Donovan). She is a truly remarkable talent and is only getting better with time.
Erin Clare as Doralee, the role originated by Dolly Parton herself, is as ballsy, sweet and brassy as you want her to be and gets quite a few moments in the spotlight, her voice has a lovely lilt and she keeps the balance between sweetness and light without falling into saccharine territory.
What is truly wonderful about this production is the ensemble that never seems to stop pirouetting and high kicking, even when placing down props on the stage. Every mark is hit with precision and level of talent in this show is of the highest calibre.
If you are looking for a glittering, ridiculous, hilarious show that comes with all the self-love of Dolly Parton herself, and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the modern working world and continued discrimination for anyone other than a white middle-aged male without becoming preachy, 9 to 5 is the show for you. It is fun, silly, touching and represents how by banding together, making changes and being kind, we can make a better world, one country song at a time.
John Frost for Crossroads Live, Suzanne Jones and The Ambassador Theatre Group
9 to 5 – The Musical
music & lyrics Dolly Parton | book Patricia Resnick
Director Jeff Calhoun
Venue: State Theatre | Arts Centre Melbourne, VIC
Dates: until 17 September 2022