Christmas at the Alexandra Theatre always manages to create an atmosphere that most theatres could only dream of; with the arrival of a bucket load of Dolly Parton hits in the shape of 9 to 5: The Musical the place is as fun and energetic as ever.
The opening sequence features the instantly recognisable tune of Dolly's single 9 to 5, with the lady herself appearing on a projection screen from her desk in Dollywood, introducing the characters: Violet Newstead (Jackie Clune), Judy Bernley (Natalie Casey) and the role she played in the screen version, Doralee Rhodes (Amy Lennox). The projections and messages from dolly work extremely well; they're not tacky and her narration is a welcome bonus for her fans. One character she doesn’t introduce is the scene stealing Bonnie Langford as office supervisor, Roz Keith.
Based on the 1979 film, the story focuses on female empowerment, sexual equality and workplace politics that are as relevant today as they were in the classic film.
After being introduced to headstrong Violet we understand she's an underappreciated secretary in a male dominated environment, something she's not willing to live with for much longer. Clunes tackles the role with gust and ability that are perfect attributes for the domineering character. After training up newbie Judy, they become friends and along with Doralee are all tired of taking orders from their ‘sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot’ of a boss Franklin Hart, played terrifically by Ben Richards. Violet accidently mixes rat poison into Franklin’s coffee that lead to the three girls realising they can do something about their unfair boss; albeit immoral and a tad unrealistic.
Act One closer Shine Like The Sun is the kind of song that make the audience leave for the interval with a huge smile on their face; provoking questions that will all be answered during the second Act. The three ladies on stage, singing those empowering lyrics is a real show-stopping moment.
Kidnapping their boss and keeping him captive in his own home whilst making some drastic changes to office life, the girls realise they are good at being in control and the changes they make are all for the better, much to the delight of company CEO Mr Tinsworthy (Marlon Moore).
Amy Lennox is the true standout star from the show, her country twang allow her smooth vocals to tackle Dolly’s signature notes with perfection; it was an absolute joy to hear her sing Backwoods Barbie. She makes the character her own and doesn’t turn her portrayal into an impersonation of Dolly, something I was apprehensive about beforehand. Natalie Casey gets to shine with her vocals during her solo number Get Out and Stay Out, another of Dolly's signature classic lyrical songs that ensure the women are certainly in charge.
Another special mention must go to the outstanding Bonnie Langford who, during her solo number, Heart to Hart, demonstrates her true triple theatre abilities – just a shame she isn’t more of a central character as her stage time is very limited.
9 to 5 is one of the most joyous pieces of theatre I’ve had the pleasure of watching (and I’ve seen a lot of similar shows!). Even the setting of a dull office can’t stop the upbeat cast, that, alongside Dolly’s witty and creative lyrics create a perfect musical for the Christmas season – Birmingham you are lucky to have this in your city this festive period!
9 to 5: The Musical plays at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham through January 5 2013.