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Review Round-Ups

Were critics working 9 to 5 to praise the Dolly Parton musical?

9 to 5 opened at the Savoy Theatre last night

Natalie McQueen in 9 to 5
© Craig Sugden

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage

★★★

"Times change but 9 to 5's message still rings strong. Indeed, a couple of added jokes which clearly refer to President Trump (despite the period setting) indicate that at some levels the cause of women's equality is moving backwards. But the musical is cruder in effect than the movie; the boss here (thanklessly and gamely played by Brian Conley) is a figure of fun, not a malevolent force. The addition of a subplot about spinster Roz, being obsessed with him, gets broad laughs but feels needlessly unkind. "

"Amber Davies combines a soaring voice with bright haplessness and Natalie McQueen is witty and winning as Doralee, finding just the right balance between sexiness and vulnerability. As Violet, Caroline Sheen stepped in at relatively short notice for an injured Louise Redknapp, but you wouldn't know it in the confidence and verve of the performance."


Michael Billington, The Guardian

★★★

"The show itself is unashamedly a period piece and about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The book by Patricia Resnick, who scripted the movie, retains the idea of three female office workers uniting to get their revenge on a monster boss. Many of the gags are of Carry On vintage."

"The show is a piece of slick commercial packaging, but it still argues that equal pay, flexible hours and in-house daycare are not only vital targets but also make for better business. "


Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

★★

"Fans of the ditzy eponymous 1980 Dolly Parton film will love it but everyone else is likely to be left mystified at quite how this grimly reductive material fits into the current post-#MeToo narrative."

"This is, intentionally, bubble-gum stuff, but it's of a peculiarly acrid flavour. Sure, the three "girls", underpaid and under-valued minions to a gruesomely sexist boss, triumph in the end, but there's an awful lot of dubious business to sit through en route."

"The songs have a little of Parton's usual sprinkling of stardust, but only 9 to 5 and Backwoods Barbie — amusingly printed in the programme as "Backwards" Barbie — stand out. There's not enough real firepower here or in Patricia Resnick's script ."


The cast of 9 to 5
© Craig Sugden


Luke Jones, The Daily Mail

★★

"The set blinks like a pinball machine, it churns out good smutty puns, but it's oh so thin on plot, monotone on performance and even the newly penned songs by Dolly are blandly forgettable."

"Its attempt at a message is ‘#MeToo the musical' but with bottom slapping. The central trio of secretaries (originally Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda on screen) start the fight within their firm for equal rights and recognition."

"Worthy causes, but they're quickly forgotten as cleavages are ogled, unattractive women are balked at, secretary Bonnie Langford kicks her height in suspenders and boss Brian Conley is dangled from the ceiling in a gimp suit. "


Alice Saville, Time Out

★★★

"The plot, when it shows up, is about as ridiculous as these women's ultra-glam interpretation of ‘office wear'. Violet accidentally laces the bossman's tea with rat poison, then all three trap him in bondage gear while they turn the office into an equal-pay paradise with an on-site crèche. "

" "9 to 5"' is this show's best song, and it knows how to use it, ie as often as possible. There's also a memorable performance of "Backwoods Barbie" by Natalie McQueen as Doralee, who's got Parton's sweet yodelling tones down pat. Still, it would have been nice to hear take a crack at "Jolene". Or "Islands in the Stream". Or "I Will Always Love You"."

"But then, Parton's best songs have a yearning earnestness that's totally off-key for this brittle, joyful confection. If Parton's whole brand rests on the sincere heart beating under her fake rhinestone-studded costumes, 9 to 5 is all about her often-overlooked feminist edge - it's a hairspray-induced hallucination whose message lingers. "


Tim Bano, The Stage

★★★

"Parton created the show a decade ago with the film's screenwriter Patricia Resnick, writing new songs to belt out alongside the title number. There's an aimlessness and playing-for-time quality to some of these tunes that hollow it out, though there's still a lot of fun."

"Natalie McQueen's Doralee has the same irresistible positivity and sweetness of Parton, not to mention a superb Southern drawl. She's Parton's spitting image, albeit four foot taller. Davies overdoes the ditziness a bit, but Caroline Sheen is just brilliant. It's like the role was made for her, and there's certainly no sign she jumped into it last minute."

There's also a superb performance from Bonnie Langford, as uptight office secretary Roz Keith. She rips off her sensible suit in one song to reveal a tight bodice; it's a show-stealing number in which she dances, twirls, sings, and even does the splits. It's brilliant to see a woman over 30 being allowed to own her sexuality on stage. "

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