Theatre Review: 9 to 5 @ The Regent Theatre

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Working 9 to 5 is generally regarded as the most boring type of work imaginable. However, the musical 9 to 5 is anything but.

The show – based on the cult film of the same name – is a comical extravaganza packed with good tunes, slick choreography and great performances that bowls along with all the pace of a trained typist’s fingers.

Set in the headquarters of a major insurance firm, the story revolves around three females who all have reasons not to be cheerful. Widow Violet is regularly overlooked for a much-deserved promotion because she is not one of the boys, Doralee’s desire is to be a country singer but she  is dogged by rumours that she is sleeping with her boss while Judy has been forced into finding employment after her husband decided to trade her in for a younger model.

What makes the ladies’ predicament even harder to bear is the fact that their boss is the face of sexism with little respect for the women in his employment. Franklin Hart Jr does have one admirer in the form of his PA Roz but the ardour of the apparently plain Jane character is most definitely unrequited.

The plot revolves around the trio’s plans to stage a revolution in working practice. A way is found to remove Franklin from the office and prove that – despite what a mere male may think – a woman’s touch to management is a happy touch.

Violet is the leader of the uprising and Claire Sweeney brings all of the experience gained from a lifetime in musical and more serious theatre and presentation to the role of a woman aggrieved by her lot in life and who is eager for revenge. Stephanie Chandos admirably fills the shoes vacated by Dolly Parton with the acting ability to range from the feistiness of her approach to her boss – the audience truly believes that she would turn her employer from “a rooster to a hen” with one shot from her pistol – and the pathos of her singing of Backwood Barbie. Vivian Panka – in her first role in the UK – turns in a sparkling display as her character grows in independence and her performance of Get Out and Stay Out is just beautiful.

Sean Needham is excellent as the chauvinist CEO as he plays his pantomime villain part to perfection while establishing a great rapport with the audience and Julia J Nagle is able to show off her smouldering passion to hilarious effect with Heart to Hart being a highlight of the show. Sarah-Marie Maxwell brings comedy as Martini Girl Margaret and Russell Dickson as Violet’s rebuffed suitor Joe contribute well as do all others in a talented cast.

For those with no memory of working life for women in the 1980s some of the scenes may seem a little far-fetched, but Patricia Resnick, when writing the book,  did her research and the events are based on fact. All of which can make the experience a little uncomfortable for some men in the audience as the women cheer on their heroines on the stage. Thankfully the fun is so explicit that this is a show that can be enjoyed by all.

9 to 5 has Dolly Parton’s fingerprints all over it and she makes guest filmed appearances. However the cast is talented enough to make the show their own. This is a cheeky concoction that deserves to be seen by all. Don’t just take my word for it. Ask any of the packed audience who gave a standing ovation at the finale.

The show continues until Saturday 26th February and has a running time of approximately 2 hours 30 including interval. For ticket details contact atgtickets.com/stoke or 0844 871 7615