NODA Review - 9 to 5 The Musical
This relatively new musical is based on the more well-known film of the same name from 1980 and as The Guardian review of the professional production aptly remarked, although Dolly Parton does not actually appear on stage, 'her presence fills it': her fingerprints are all over the show - the musical score really couldn't be by anyone else - and she even appears at the beginning of the show as a projected video/voice-over. The musical keeps to the same light-hearted formula as the film and despite the fact that many aspects of culture and society have changed since the 1980s, the feminist message at the heart of the story is still as relevant and important today. This is a show which relies on a solid set of performances from the central trio of Violet, Doralee and Judy - we really have to believe in their relationship or the whole show falls down - and fortunately, the performers at the Hippodrome excelled here. Along with a very well realised staging which really did suggest a flavour of the age, this was a very strong production which really made the most of the fairly thin subject matter and provided a packed house with an evening of musical fun.
This broadly humorous show tells of a trio of doughty female office workers who rise up against their chauvinistic boss and turn the tables on the outmoded and stuffy status quo. Dawn Marie Nicholls was a fiery ball of energy as Violet, the lynchpin of the ladies in the office, Angela Mayall was endearingly comical as accident prone Judy and Louise Whyte gave a strong and sassy performance as Doralee. All three of our heroines worked well together and made for a great team. Wonderful characterisation, strong vocals and a real feeling that each of the girls was really enjoying the experience gave the show a strong and solid base from which the rest of the production could build on. Hart, the dastardly boss, was played with lip-smacking relish by Richard Whyte who really threw himself into the role with melodramatic glee and his frustrated dogsbody Roz was brought to life in fine style by Cath Hullett; in her capable hands, '5 to 9' was the standout song of the show for me.
A very strong ensemble of supporting performers provided a stage teeming with life at every turn: Chris Scott as Joe and Callum Roberts as Josh were particularly good; Richard Holley demonstrated a good deal of versatile ability as both Dwayne and Tinsworthy and Patrick Duffy was especially hiss-worthy as dodgy Dick. Every member of the cast provided well-defined pen-portraits across the board and god solid support in the musical numbers too. The overall effect was of a bustling stage, packed with incident and with a forward momentum which carried the show along: a vital ingredient in a show which can have a habit of out-staying its welcome (considering the rather one-note thematic thrust and the engagingly daft plot, it is a rather lengthy show!)
One of the outstanding features - surprisingly for me considering that I'm no fashion expert and this sort of thing usually passes me by - was the attention to detail paid to the costumes and overall look of the staging. Here was a wonderful visual evocation of office life at the turn of the '70s into the '80s: the 'look' was spot on, with every costume and accessory complementing the decor very well indeed. Staging and technical work on the production were of the usual high standard audiences have come to expect from the Hippodrome team and Helen Clarkson's orchestra provided a sumptuous sound. The production team worked hard to add gloss to the source material and the overall look and feel of the show benefitted hugely from careful and considered direction. I did feel that here and there, there were times when the stage seemed to look a little sparse or the action seemed to flag and occasions when the rather stretched-out plot became rather repetitive but this is a fault of the show rather than this production of it. Justine and the team at the Hippodrome had clearly done their best to make the most of the material they were given and for the most part, succeeded admirably.
Much of the music is, admittedly, not to my personal taste and - again, to my mind - does rather outstay it's welcome over the course of the rather padded narrative but there were many things to enjoy in this production. The 'dream sequences' (Cowgirl's Revenge, Dance of Death and Potion Notion) were pitched just right and were very well done, cheekily humorous and darkly comic as they are: again, particular moments to cherish in this production. Louise Whyte as Doralee did a very effective job of bringing a touch of 'Dolly' to the stage, with 'Cowgirl's Revenge' and 'Backwoods Barbie' being particular highlights. 'Around Here' and 'Change It' were both excellent company numbers, well choreographed, well sung and gave an excellent flavour of the style, look and feeling of the period. 'Let Love Grow' was sweetly affecting and 'Get Out and Stay Out' was very well handled too. All in all, the production managed to make the most of the show's potential shortcomings and was very well received by an enthusiastic audience.
Todmorden's reputation for productions of a high standard is well known and here was another example of the talented gang at the Hippodrome rising to the occasion: there is always a sheen of quality glinting off the surface of any production and this was certainly the case with '9 to 5'. It was also refreshing to see a very talented cast working together as a team and perhaps more importantly, so clearly enjoying themselves. My thanks to everyone at the Hippodrome for a very warm welcome and a satisfying evening's entertainment. I look forward eagerly to the next one!