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Review of 9 To 5 The Musical on opening night at Eden Court when the feelgood show was rewarded with a standing ovation

By Margaret Chrystall

REVIEW: 9 To 5 The Musical

Eden Court, Inverness

5 stars

IT’S ironic that such a vision of work hell hits the stage within such a feelgood, joyous, hilarious triumph of a show.

9 To 5 The Musical, at Eden Court until Saturday. Picture: Pamela Raith
9 To 5 The Musical, at Eden Court until Saturday. Picture: Pamela Raith

At Eden Court until Saturday, 9 To 5 The Musical is the latest in the series of top end West End musicals dropping by the Inverness theatre in their touring form.

It might mean we don’t have Louise Redknapp – who features in the programme – as Violet Newstead, playing the naturally-savvy potential leader and maybe even a CEO-in-waiting at Consolidated Industries.

But we do have gifted Sarah-Marie Maxwell stepping in to bring loads of charisma, a great voice – and heart to her Violet.

Sarah-Marie Maxwell as Violet.
Sarah-Marie Maxwell as Violet.

And talking of Hart, as in “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”, as Judy says of her boss. Or even, as I would say, the evil, misogynistic, sleazy, over-sexed and super-selfish Franklin Hart Jr, Sean Needham is working 9 To 5 and all the other hours to bring to life every cell of loathsomeness and comedy he can extract from the potential of the part – and there’s plenty – for a hilariously repellent creation.

Where other actors might stop, feeling they had done a good-enough job, Sean’s Franklin goes many extra miles to make moments and images that, frankly ladies, you will find it hard to forget.

It’s difficult to go into too much detail, as spoilers would ruin it for others. But the man makes everything, from unwilling dancing to hanging around, a personal triumph!

With Dolly Parton literally looking down on the whole show with her commentary, popping into the ever-updated clock space that sits above the set, she takes us through the show’s 9 to 5, her sassy, forthright words pointing us in the right direction.

So, she introduces Doralee (Stephanie Chandos doing a perfect job as a Dolly doppelganger) – saying; “She’s smart as a fox … you know who she is, right?”

Yes, you Dolly!

The show sets off from an all-singing, all-dancing, all-action start that creates the office, the view of skyscrapers and swooping birds outside, and soon Franklin’s office, and introduces us to all the main characters by the time first number 9 To 5 hits its last note.

And that’s something else worth mentioning, there’s live music in the orchestra pit, directed from a big keyboard and really kicking in at moments, as when the pedal steel hits ”sob” for Doralee’s song Backwoods Barbie.

Vivian Panka is sweet and vulnerable as office newbie Judy, dumped by her husband for his secretary and now on her own.

To new friends Doralee and Violet, she says: “I just miss Dick …”. Then seeing their widening eyes: “No, that’s his name!”

The three women compare notes on what Violet calls their “pink-collar ghetto” as they make friends over a ‘coffee’, sharing their complaints about the workplace and their monster of a boss, and quickly the plot sees them planning their revenge on him and transforming the workplace for the better.

Julia J Nagle as office snitch Roz with her hero Franklin Hart Jr in the frame. Picture: Pamela Raith
Julia J Nagle as office snitch Roz with her hero Franklin Hart Jr in the frame. Picture: Pamela Raith

The two acts fly by – helped by everything from dynamic choreography and lightning-fast scene changes, to talents like Julia J Nagle as Hart fan and office snitch Roz, one high spot of the show her scene having a ball fantasising about her hero in Heart To Hart.

The one moment that seemed a little odd, was when Violet, Doralee and Judy shared their fantasy fates for Hart verbally and without using the giant screen at the back of the stage. In a production that majored on multi-media savvy – you could imagine them making a little film before the run of the three of them dramatising it. But perhaps if they had, it would have featured Louise Redknapp, so couldn’t be used this week.

In every way, this is a show that works super-hard at being effortlessly entertaining. It’s a fun, upbeat laughathon that deserves a great crowd. And most of the first-night Eden Court crowd – Inverness first nighters are not always warmed up enough to really let loose, unlike this one – treated it to a deserved standing ovation.

But was I the only woman in the place going home afterwards and pondering the 80s world of work for women, and wondering, have we really come far enough? MC

More info and tickets: https://eden-court.co.uk/event/9-to-5-the-musical-1

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