As 9 to 5 The Musical announces its closing dates and forthcoming cast changes, I go along because I can’t resist Bonnie Langford
“Respected and high class,
I don’t have to kiss ass
For the first time since I’ve been employed”
The pictures above should give you an indication as to who the real star of 9 to 5 The Musical is, no matter how red the trunks (or surprisingly long the legs) of David Hasselhoff. I first saw this cinematic adaptation in 2012 on its UK tour and loved Bonnie Langford’s performance so much it ranked in that year’s best. So her return to the show in its West End debut last year was great to behold (even if it didn’t quite tempt me along to see it again).
It’s a curious one, Patricia Resnick’s adaptation of her own film sprinkles the story with the rhinestone glitter of Dolly Parton’s songbook, far beyond the iconic title track and is possessed of a huge spirit of fun. But the tale itself, of the struggle for women’s equality in the workplace, demands a little more gravity than it ultimately gets here. How seriously are we meant to take sexual harassment when it is accompanied by the Colgate smile and eye twinkle of the Hoff.
It’s a tension that is never resolved in the show but from the start, you pretty much know it is never even going to try. As Parton’s gleaming image pops up on a screen to introduce the musical, its particular mood is set and a level of impressively energetic fun from Jeff Calhoun’s direction and Lisa Stevens’ choreography is imposed. And the charm offensive does prove effective, it is all too easy, and somewhat welcome, to be swept along in the rush.
What saves the show is the use of Parton’s songs and their delivery by a strong cast. Caroline Sheen leads with real power and passion as Violet, Chelsea Halfpenny impresses as nervy newbie Judy and I got to see Sasha Wareham knocking it out of the park covering as Doralee – individually and together, they sound like a dream. And the glorious Bonnie Langford is scene-stealingly good as she makes gold out of what is a rather thanklessly written part. You’ve a few months left to tumble out of bed and see it if you want.