“Well, I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen….. Pour myself a cup of ambition….. Yawn and stretch and try to come to life.”
As I find the words to describe the amazing musical 9 to 5 which is now playing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC , the first word that arrives in my head is fun. I was still singing the lyrics from the show as I woke up the next morning and giggling to myself about entering the workforce in the 1980’s. Oh, the things we put up with back in the day!
She Society felt privileged to be invited to the glamorous Opening Night of 9 to 5 where media, influencers and a who’s who of Brisbane , eagerly awaited Dolly Parton’s smash hit show. Dolly herself invited us in and introduced the famous characters, who many of us remembered from the well loved movies starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlinson and Dolly herself.
Full of mischief, laughter and affection this show will grab you from the first minute and have you laughing out loud all night. Some of Australia’s finest performers look to be having a ball strutting their stuff on stage and wowing us with their dynamic voices.The subject matter is even more relevant in today’s society. It shows us how far we have come, in a very tongue in cheek way, but also remind us of how far we have to go with lines like, “ This wouldn’t happen in ten years.”
The audience groaned.
9 to 5 premiered in 2008, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. She’s reworked and modernised it over time without distilling its message. It features the book by Patricia Resnick and is based on the screenplay written by Resnick and Colin Higgins. It caused a sensation on London’s West End with its joyous vibe and is the feel good show for our times. It was rather racy in parts.
For those who may not know, 9 to 5 , is the story of three very different women – Doralee, Violet and Judy. Set in the 1980’s these three enterprising workmates push for greater recognition and better treatment of the women in their workplace.Their inappropriate bully boss Franklin Hart Jr. is misogynistic, cruel and sleazy. He promotes the men to senior positions and perpetuates the idea of a boy’s club.
The charming Doralee is ostracised by the other women because of her looks and the mistaken idea that she is having an affair with the boss.Violet is the no nonsense hardworking widow with a secret heart of gold. Judy is a young woman reentering the workforce after her husband left her for a younger woman. The only woman who sides with Hart is Roz. Roz harbours a secret crush on Mr Hart.
The three women sort out their misunderstandings and become firm friends. After a boozy night fantasising about taking revenge on their boss this desire actually comes to fruition. Whilst Mr Hart is out of action and just ‘ hanging around ‘ at home, the ladies reconfigure the whole workplace making it a better place for all. They introduce childcare, job sharing, flexible hours and equal pay.These are rights we are still rallying for in 2022.
All of this could be corny and there are some parts which will make you cringe, despite a reworking of the 80’s script for this production. However, overall this is a charming and relatable story with laughs aplenty, made all the more believable by a sensational cast who gel so well.
How daunting to have to fill the shoes of the iconic Dolly Parton, but Erin Clare as Doralee sometimes makes you forget it’s not Dolly on stage. Her voice and presence is mesmerising. When she tied up and threatened Mr Hart with a gun I wanted to go and hide. She was so convincing. Her voice was unbelievable.
The experienced Marina Prior playing Violet , reminded us why she has had such longevity in her stage career. Not only was she musically profound, her comedic timing and pacing was spot on. She was extremely believable in this role and played Violet in a nuanced way. Her acting seems effortless.
Casey Donovan wowed me once again as she hit the high notes. Her solo in Act 2, brought goosebumps and spontaneous applause from the mesmerised audience. She played the innocent Judy without overdoing it and it was easy to see why her workmates grew to love her so much.
The camaraderie and admiration between this trio seemed genuine and was one of the great strengths of the show. Here at She Society we are all about women supporting women and this was girl power at its finest.
The magnificent Caroline O’Connor was a standout. She put her voice and body on the line to create the character of Roz. Her limbs seemed made of rubber as she hammed it up in slapstick moments or raunchy dances, before blasting out a tune reminding us of her incredible voice. Her character could have been one of derision, but she put her stamp on Roz and ensured she had her time to shine.
Eddie Perfect was simply perfection as the unlikable Franklin Hart Jr. Eddie will do anything for a laugh and uses his whole body to convey emotions and encourage you to dislike this abominable character even more. His boyish playfulness comes to the fore here and he looks like he’s having a great time. The casting was wonderful and I’d pay just to see one of these greats.
Costumes too were a highlight for me. I can attest that they are extremely authentic 80’s looks as I wore many of them back in the day myself. As I watched the women in their stilettos I remembered the torture I’d put my own feet through every day working in an office. I am paying for it now. The colours and shapes were mesmerising as the cast danced and moved. Changes in the dynamics and characters were shown through costuming. Bravo to wardrobe!
Then there was the music. We all know the title song which is the ear-worm that is 9 to 5. Dolly is such an accomplished songwriter that we loved Caroline O’ Connor’s Heart to Hart and Casey’s version of Get Out and Stay Out tugged at our emotions. For fun we enjoyed Backwoods Barbie sung by Erin Clare.This song is a quintessential Dolly country song and alludes to Parton’s own humble beginnings.
It was great to see a musical again, to hear people dance, clap and sing. 9 to 5 promises a night of pure joy and certainly delivers. As we leaped to our feet to give this brilliant cast a standing ovation we sang the theme song and shook the roof. As we left , every single person was smiling and that for me is what a good musical is all about. For an antidote to your winter blues and to see some of Australia’s best performers in action head along to 9 to 5. It’s playing at QPAC right here in Brisbane until July 2. Set your alarms!
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).