Kit Benjamin

Review: 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL at the Savoy Theatre

9 to 5 the Musical After being abandoned by her philandering husband, Dick, (cue name-related hilarity), Judy Bernly (Amber Davies) is forced to take a job in the offices of Consolidated Industries, managed by the sexist, ego-maniacal Franklin Hart Jr (Brian Conley). Over the course of her first few days at Consolidated, she finds herself teaming up with two colleagues; Hart’s seemingly flirtatious and manipulative but actually misunderstood secretary, Doralee Rhodes (Natalie McQueen – played in the film by Dolly Parton herself) and the capable but underrated and under-promoted office supervisor, Violet Newstead (Louise Redknapp).

They all have reason to loathe the awful Hart and are so provoked by his behavior that they find themselves surprisingly, and just a little implausibly, kidnapping him and hiding him in his apartment whilst they run the office in his absence. Will their plot be uncovered? Will their skills ever be recognized? Will the boss get his comeuppance? Will we ever get tired of Dick jokes? No spoilers.

Based on the 1980 movie 9 To 5, this musical version, adapted by the original screenwriter, Patricia Resnick, with some hit-and-miss songs by the divine Dolly P, is now entering the fourth month of its London revival at The Savoy, where it looks set to run for a good while yet.

The three female leads all turn in solid, polished, vocally flawless performances, that never quite seem to catch fire. There’s much to enjoy, the ballads are just sufficiently dewy-eyed, and the anthems belted to kingdom come, the slightly over-baked gags delivered with a knowing side-eye, but there’s little to be thrilled by.

Paradoxically, for a show with an ostensibly feminist message but, perhaps, inevitably, the evening is owned rather more completely by Brian Conley. He knows exactly what his audience expects from him and he delivers it with enviable energy and panache and utterly without shame. You get the impression he may have been left largely to his own devices, directorially; probably wise.

And then there’s Bonnie Langford as lovelorn lady-of-a-certain-age Roz, whose switch from tweedy twinset to vampy scarlet corsetry comes very close to ripping the show out of Conley’s hands and high kicking all the way down the Strand with it. She must surely be on the waiting list to become a national treasure.

Oh, and let’s not forget Dolly herself who, though not physically present, is with us as narrator in video form. It’s a neat device; just when the show takes a dip and you really need a bit of Dolly, up she pops on one or several of the video screens that line the set.

Expect no great insights into workplace misogyny here: This is a world where #metoo never happened, where a woman bending over to pick up pencils for a leering boss is still hilarious, however ironically. Yet, it’s all so wide-eyed and well-intentioned that it’s hard to hold a wince for long. And if I found it a struggle to get wholly on-board, it would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that a full house was on its feet at the final curtain. 9 To 5 is never going to be a classic, but it’s Dolly good fun.