Theatre review - 9 to 5 The Musical, The Palace Theatre, Manchester

PUBLISHED: 10:39 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 19 September 2019

Louise Redknapp as Violet Newstead in 9 to 5 The Musical
Credit: S Turtle

Louise Redknapp as Violet Newstead in 9 to 5 The Musical Credit: S Turtle

Copyright S TURTLE 2019

Louise Redknapp, Amber Davies and Georgina Castle shine in this fun and frothy musical

Amber Davies as Judy Bernly in 9 to 5 The Musical
Credit: Craig SugdenAmber Davies as Judy Bernly in 9 to 5 The Musical Credit: Craig Sugden

I loved the film and know all the words to the song. I think Dolly Parton is amazing both in song and in life. So last night, at the opening night of the national tour of 9 to 5 The Musical, I had high hopes - which could very easily have been shattered. Thankfully, they were not, and I left singing away happily to myself, after a very jolly two hours of laughter and several wow moments too.

I had no concerns over the cast, though in some quarters there have been sad grumblings about certain ladies' qualifications. I hadn't ever heard of Amber Davies before, I admit - it turns out she won Love Island in 2017, but as she can sing like a dream, I don't care how she kick-started her career. Louise Redknapp may also have come to the stage via her name and fame, rather than working her way up the greasy pole, but she's earned her place too, as far as I can see - voice, acting, dance-moves, she's nailed the whole shebang.

The storyline follows that of the movie and, just like the movie, Ms Dolly Parton herself has a lot to say. And not just because she wrote the songs for the musical, bit because she appears - in video form - right at the start, to introduce each of our three heroines, while belting out the theme song we all know and love, herself. Her appearance, moments after the chap behind asked 'Is Dolly in this?' caused a buzz of excitement and set the tone just right for the rest of the show.

Louise Redknapp plays Violet Newstead, the overlooked-for-promotion bedrock of the accounting firm where the three ladies work. She strides around with the kind of confidence we all wish we had (and mostly fake) but still can't get past the glass ceiling imposed by the 'boys club' led by horrible boss, Franklin Hart Jnr. Hart is played to perfection by Sean Needham, who flips from creepy stalker to sexist pig in a moment and looks worryingly at home in scarlet and black bondage gear.

The role of sweet, recently-dumped-for-a-secretary, Judy Bernly is taken by sweet young thing Amber Davies, who doesn't let the side down once - and then proves her star quality with an astonishing performance of Get Out and Stay Out at the end of the show. You could feel the audience rise in their seats as she hit her crescendos and certainly earned the spontaneous shouts and applause that followed. That was an oh wow moment for sure.

Busty blonde Doralee Rhodes must be both a gift and a curse of a role. It was of course the part played by Dolly herself in the film, so great big stilettos to fill there! But - it's also the best role for comedy moments, fabulous speech 'He looked madder than a mule chewing on bumble bees' and the chance to sing Backwoods Barbie, a song clearly written straight from Dolly's heart. Castle pulls it off with panache. From the wriggle in her walk to the country gal in her talk, she nails it. And as for her big song - brilliant. This is a talent to watch.

Oh - and I must give a mention to Lucinda Lawrence, who plays Hart's obsessed PA, Roz. She's brilliant - uptight, unpleasant, suspicious and a traitor to the feminist cause - she then delivers a simply fabulous song and dance number, with basque and stockings, all legs and voice and perfect comic timing.

All in all this is a show that's just pure fun. The film might have been written to send a message about gender inequality in the workplace in 1980's America, but 40 years later things haven't changed enough to date it overmuch. The fashions have changed more than the attitudes, some might argue.

Go, have fun, sing along to a song you know well, and leave smiling. I did.

Until Saturday 21 September: Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/times/9-to-5-the-musical/palace-theatre-manchester/2019-09-18

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