9 to 5, the Musical, Bristol Hippodrome

TWO powerful women with iron wills and  a shrewd sense of business are behind the successes of  both 9 to 5 , the film, and  9 to 5  the musical.

It was the politically active dual Academy Award winning actress Jane Fonda who in 1980 had the idea of highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace and inequality in wages and promotion opportunities between men and women. The idea of underlining these problems dramatically quickly gave way to doing so via comedy when writer Patricia Resnick joined the team, resulting in one of the funniest comedies to emerge on film in the 1980s.

It also gave Dolly Parton, who composed the title song for the film, a chance to prove that she had far more to offer than just  belting out  big brash Country and Western numbers. Dolly played the not-so-dumb blonde Doralee, who with Lily Tomlin as Violet the sharp-witted older office statesman, and Jane Fonda in the role of the shy newly-divorced newcomer Judy, have all fallen foul of their egotistical, bigoted sexist boss Franklin Hart Jnr.  The revenge they wreak when they kidnap him and successfully take over the running of the company forms the basis of some wonderful comedy.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Dolly Parton had her wish, and writing a full score and lyrics to fit the storyline turned 9 to 5 into a full-scale stage musical. Despite being nominated for numerous awards the production only had a years run on Broadway, but, with the shrewd Parton at its helm, and always ready to tweak the production, the show set out on the first of many tours of the USA and UK, creating a favourite with an ever-increasing army of fans.

This production, which whilst never forgetting the humour, leaves you in no doubt that when it comes to sexist behaviour and equality in the work place, we still have a long way to go. It opens with a bang and with a dazzling display of expertly-lit express speed scene changes, scarcely giving the audience a chance to draw breath as the story rips though the personal and professional problems of the three girls at mark one speed.

Louise Redknapp (as Voilet) Vivian Panka (Judy), Stephanie Chandos (Doralee) and Sean Needham, a suitable despicable male chauvinist Franklin Hart Jnr, do not have as many verbal or physical comedy chances as their film counterparts, but they have big, eye-catching vocal opportunities which they gobble up like four confirmed chocoholics.

Well as those numbers were presented and received, they were hard pushed to match Julia Nangle’s show stopper of a number Hart to Hart. She pulled out all the stops going from uptight spinster secretary Roz, to sex pot vamp as she fanaticised about her love-making to her beloved Franklin.

Add to this a handful of well-drawn supporting characters and a well-drilled ensemble who more than just pulled their weight helping those smooth scene changes to move at such a breakneck speed, and you have a production that kept the committed fans happy and probably added a few new members to their number.


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