9 to 5 – The Dolly Parton Musical
Theatre Royal, Brighton
Ever had that heart fluttering feeling of absolute excitement when you get a sudden need to jump out of your seat, punch the air and yelp ‘Yeehaa!’ (I’m learning the Southern lingo)? This was me just a few hours ago. Goosebumps, a smile like a Cheshire cat and a little song in my head which I have to say I sung on repeat THE WHOLE WAY HOME – last night saw the opening night of the 9 to 5 Musical at the Theatre Royal in Brighton.
All in all it was bloody brilliant! Possibly a little biased some may say as I hold a little candle in my heart for both the Deep South and the 1970s, but as far as musicals go it did what it promised on the tin. Music, song, dance, good looking cast members, perfectly picked costumes and wowing wigs!
The story starts in 1980 after the film version was released on the Silver Screen – a pretty accurate portrayal of a 20 something female working hard to make her living after her husband has an affair with his secretary. Judy Bernly takes a job at Consolidated Companies and on her first day she arrives in an ill-fitting two piece, with cringeworthy bucket hat and terrible plastic ridge glasses that only Dame Edna somehow manages to pull off. A little girl lost but a woman waiting for her moment, and boy does Natalie Casey put on an absolutely blinding performance!
I remember back in the day watching Casey in the original cast of Hollyoaks – when Tony was still going through puberty and Lewis was the heartbreaker of Chester (cue sudden old feeling). Then in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, playing the comical character of Donna. Casey’s movements across the stage completely encompassed the character and emotion of Judy from 9 to 5 and beyond. She kept me captivated throughout with her geeky awkwardness; by the end of the show Casey made the females in the audience feel empowered, confident and independent. Don’t forget the whole show is based on the employment difficulties, discriminations and bad bosses faced in the workplace back in the 70s – something that we unfortunately still face in some companies today.
Judy’s sidekicks Violet (Jackie Clune) and Doralee – otherwise known as Dolly Parton (Amy Lennox) – came together like the three muskateers to put big showman and CEO Franklyn J Hart (Ben Richards) to the ultimate test – they made sure he knew what a ‘Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot’ he really was by tying him up, locking him in the boots of Violet’s car and gagging him. We may be in Brighton folks, but this was not kinky play. It was all about proving a point and standing for rights as an individual and a 1970s woman.
Favourite moments apart from the very tiny, very tight, bright pink hotpants worn by the rather beautiful Ben Richards, was the opening 9 to 5 melody followed by Doralees solo ‘Backwoods Barbie’. A song I think a few of us girls could relate to. All the music was of course written by the lady herself, Dolly Parton, and she even popped by (virtually) to say ‘Thank You Brighton’ at the end of the show.
Although the set only featured a small handful of changes, the costumes and wigs alone kept us all entertained. Pussy bow blouses, bell bottom trousers, paisley prints, eccentric oranges and vibrant violets – I would love to raid the costume department. Wigs in the style of Bridget Bardot and Daisy Duke for the girls and slick comb-overs for the boys. Midi length dresses and circle skirts, Mary Jane shoes and old-skool suitcases alongside the 1970s punchlines transported the audience back in time.
A brilliant take on the movie, a terrific cast and of course a fabulous venue. The Theatre Royal in Brighton is an intimate (very warm!) venue perfect for enjoying a family friendly performance. A theatre that in its own right takes you back a millennium or so – excellent viewing, comfortable seats and very attentive staff. It really was a full package.
I would highly recommend that ‘ya’ll’ get yourselves down to the Theatre Royal before Saturday to avoid missing out on the toe tapping, country singing, mood enhancing 9 to 5 Musical.