9 to 5 The Musical, performed by students from the London School of Musical Theatre, continues at the Bridewell Theatre, London, until 28 April.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 is the second of the London School of Musical Theatre’s spring offerings following the almost forgotten King of Hearts. It grabs the audience from the start with an in-your-face, high-octane, full-cast blast of the title song and never lets go.
Based on the 1980 movie of the same name, this triumph of feminist wiles over macho male domination is the perfect vehicle for a musical seat of learning where girls outnumber guys by three to one.
Violet, Doralee and Judy prepare for another mundane, hellish day (‘9 to 5’) at the beck and call of their self-satisfied, vain CEO Mr Hart, but long-serving Violet is fed up with being overlooked for promotion because of her sex and, with help from new girl Judy, finally determines to do something about it.
Rob Peacock, a finalist in the Sondheim Society’s Student Performer of the Year competition in June, overacts to his heart’s content as Hart in a gem of a part, but it is the voice of Evie Rose Lane as Judy, who arrives after being ditched by her husband and without the faintest clue of how to do her job, that most stays in the memory.
Her Act I solo ‘The Dance of Death’ (music by Parton, lyrics and book by Patricia Resnick) makes the spine tingle and ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ at the end of Act II confirms the impression that here is a special talent.
Hannah Bowen, an elegant Nicole Kidman lookalike, as the widowed Violet, and Sarah Bayliss as the pneumatic boss’ secretary Doralee, ‘The Backwoods Barbie’ lusted after by Hart who is horrified to discover that the others believe she has given in to his advances, are excellent.
Violet is pursued by Joe (Samuel Webb) but says she’s a ‘one-man woman’ not yet ready for another relationship. Their ‘Let Love Grow’ duet works well, and Renee Lamb, as Roz, another downtrodden worker inexplicably carrying a secret passion for the odious Hart, is a fine actress who makes the absolute most of her role.
Her two big numbers ‘Heart to Hart’ and ‘5 to 9’ are highlights. She really gets inside this part and brings it vividly to life.
It would be a pleasure to see any or all of this well-drilled team of 19 again (director: Kirk Jameson, choreographer: Sam Spencer-Lane), but it is Lane’s purity of voice and Lamb’s characterisation that stand out in a feast of excellence.
Musical director Paul Herbert and his band of seven are great support to the 15 songs, none of which is a hardship to listen to in a story that is pure 1980. It couldn’t happen in 2017, could it?!