Pictures: Pamela Raith

9 to 5 The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Cards on the table, I’m a big Dolly Parton fan.

Whether it be singing, song writing, acting or encouraging children to read via the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (over 167,000,000 free books given away!!) she’s an absolute legend.

In my opinion she is hands down one of the best songwriters and performers of all time and I’d wager (though admittedly never having met her) that she’s also one of the nicest people of all time too.

The original 9 to 5 film was the first time an impressionable me saw Dolly Parton sing or act and I was immediately a fan, so it was with much anticipation that I returned to 9 to 5 in its musical incarnation a few too many decades later.

Top billing went to Louise Redknapp’s Violet Newstead but her two co-leads Stephanie Chandos (Doralee) and Vivian Panka (Judy Bernly) more than held their own.

In fact the only thing more Dolly Parton than Stephanie Chandos’s Doralee was Dolly herself who makes a welcome appearance as a form of videoscreen narrator at the start of each act as well as the end. Even as a recording on a video screen, Dolly’s definitely still got it.

Though her background is not in stage musicals, Louise Redknapp does not look out of place, whilst Vivian Panka has vocals worthy of a Disney film and Stephanie Chandos channels the charm and sass of Dolly – never more so in her rendition of Backwoods Barbie. 


Louise Redknapp as Violet Newstead

The three leads have a good chemistry and each allows the others to take their share of the spotlight. They are ably supported by a hardworking support cast and special mentions must go to Julia J Nagle’s Roz Keith who provides bucket loads of comedy especially in her rendition of Hart to Hart,

A mention too for the villain of the piece Franklin Hart Jr. played by Richard Taylor Woods who plays his odious part with crotch thrusting gusto. A villain with a small ‘v’ he make sure his part is as fun as it should be.

All in all it’s high energy stuff from start to finish with witty choreography from Lisa Stevens, set within the inventive set design of Tom Rogers, managing to invoke the 80's vibe, all in the capable hands of director Jeff Calhoun.

It does have a serious message in there, indeed the film itself was inspired by a newsletter/forum (later an association) started in Boston in the 1970s called Nine To Five.

I would say however that the serious message can at times be a little diluted or confused by the slightly at odds comedy set pieces. However both the plot and the purpose of the musical is essentially the same as the film, with the main aim being to entertain rather than preach, and entertain it certainly does.

For me, I enjoyed it but perhaps its biggest strength is also its biggest weakness – they both come in the form of Dolly Parton. Even in video form there is a noticeable buzz when she is performing and it’s something that the musical itself can’t be expected to replicate. Quite simply Dolly is one of a kind.

It remains a fun watch though and I recommend it if you want a fun night out with some strong performances and some great songs.  

To 20-11-21

Theo Clarke


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