REVIEW: 9 to 5 – the Musical (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, August 10)

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If you were foolish enough to miss the fun-packed and frolicsome 9 to 5 – the Musical when it visited Brighton at the end of last year then now is the time to tumble out of bed and stumble to the Theatre Royal so you can catch it now.

This new musical packed them in at its last visit, and looks like doing so again thanks to its great cast, delicious and hard-working chorus/dancers, some memorable and well-performed songs, and its fabulous feelgood factor.

Dolly Parton’s whip-cracking musical is of course based on the hit 1980 film in which she starred alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin – and indeed Dolly herself pops up from time to time with some specially- filmed narration as well as leading the encore of the title song at the end.

It was great when it last came – but now Jeff Calhoun’s tremendous direction and choreography seem to have been spiced up along the way and everything about it fires on all cylinders.

Though set in 1979, it’s a typical 80s tale of feisty feminine revolution in the workplace – and no surprise when the boss is played to brashly arrogant and sexy perfection by Ben Richards, making a very welcome return to the show after a short time away from the role.

The perfect revenge in an age before mobile phones and office computers is planned by three strong-willed female workers, assisted by some glorious, poignant , and heartwarming songs from Dolly’s pen, including the fiercely defiant Get Out and Stay Out and the semi autobiographical Backwoods Barbie.

Still shining in the leads are Jackie Clune as Violet, the hard worker constantly overlooked for promotion; Amy Lennox as Doralee, the buxom and not so dumb blonde; and Natalie Casey as office newcomer, the newly-divorced Judy – all three catching the vital humour as well as displaying some superb singing voices. Indeed they are better than ever this time around.

Anita Louise Combe is one of the newer additions to the cast, playing the lovelorn PA Roz, and her sultry dream sequence number Heart to Hart brings the house down. A nice performance too from Mark Willshire as Joe – one of the boys who pretty nearly becomes one of the girls, as they work together to break down the sexism, discrimination and hypocrisy.

This show (quite rightly now on its way to the West End) is enough to drive you crazy with enjoyment, if you’ll only let it – and betcha by golly, Dolly doesn’t disappoint!

David Guest