Review by Michelle Fisher
It’s been 2 years since I had my original tickets to see 9 to 5 and despite all the Covid cancellations and delays, and even a change in theatre, it seemed I was not alone in saying that the excitement for this show did not dwindle even slightly. 9 to 5 is the type of musical that Aussies seem to just love to love - fun, lighthearted, filled to the brim with talent and overall just a good night out celebrating our awesome Australian artists - what is not to love?
As with any opening night, the audience was particularly electric - from the opening welcome video from none other than Dolly Parton herself, through to the standing ovation at the end. And why not, we have all been dying to go out for the last umpteenth months AND the love for those on stage was evidently enormous…what a great night to get to see 9 to 5, what a great crowd!
All of this praise, however, is not to say that this show is anything revolutionary, in fact, it would be much easier to argue that the show has not kept up with the times. Yes, there are moments where the sheer irony of the fact that this very 1980s musical still holds truths 40 years on makes you laugh (better than crying!), for example, when there is a call for equal pay for equal work...it’s hard to believe that that still remains relevant! However, overwhelmingly, the misogyny that prevails through the script has lost its ‘charm,’ shall we call it, and to a 2022 audience, sits strangely.
Ultimately though, I think that you head into this show knowing exactly what to expect - a ditsy comedy about three mistreated secretaries out to plot revenge on their awful boss. It is not a look at society today but 40 years ago and yes, a lot has changed whilst sadly a lot has not. The musical is true to its original film version, although new music and an updated script have been created for the stage production. That said, to come in anticipating a 2022 total remake would be a mistake. And with this, it would be fair to say that the show may sit better with some generations than others - in my own context, as someone who enjoyed the movie in the 80s, it was just fun to see the film come to life, but would my theatre loving daughter enjoy it as much…based solely on the storyline, I doubt it.
However, this show is a lot more than just its story. Firstly, it is filled to the brim with fantastic songs both old and new - any Dolly fan has got to love that! The soundtrack screams of nostalgia and in the capable hands of this fantastic Company, you can’t help but smile your way through the music.
But most notably, the cast in this show is simply unparalleled, particularly the leading ladies.
There is a lot of talent on the stage but it is hard to look past Casey Donovan and Caroline O’ Conner as the standouts. There is a reason that both, in their own right, are Aussie icons. Donovan’s vocals are fabulous and the audience gave her a well-deserved standing ovation after her solo but it is O’Conner who can do no wrong. Her vocals are extraordinary, her acting incredible and her comic timing impeccable. She can “belt it out “ and “ ham it up at the same time - a consummate performer, it is a privilege to watch her onstage. Erin Clare too is one that we theatre lovers need to have closer eyes on - she is excellent and I very much look forward to seeing whatever it is she does next. A true talent. Marina Prior rounds out the leading ladies in the best role I have seen her in in some time. Her vocals, as always, are flawless but her acting chops definitely come out best in this role. An absolutely exceptional cast of leads.
The ensemble too is one to watch - talented and hardworking, they make the show shine through their execution of excellent choreography (I for one would have had that paper flying all over the stage!) and great vocals.
Overall, the show is what you expect it to be but if you don’t take things too seriously, you’re in for a treat. Come for the music, come for the fun night out but most of all, come for a fabulous display of some of the finest local talent we have on offer.
Image Credit: David Hooley