“working nine to five, what a way to make a living…”
With music written by Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 is based on the 1980 film of the same name which plays out the journey of three women’s fantasies to overthrow their ‘”sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” CEO Franklin Hart (Daniel Stansfield). Each woman faces their struggles: the recently divorced and emotionally vulnerable Judy (Gemma Lowcock) starts work for the first time in 19 years, the sassy and headstrong country gal Doralee (Alice Hoult), who’s unrightfully labelled as the office doll, and the classic female powerhouse Violet (Anna Steen) who works while being a single mother. Footlights has truly set themselves up for a challenge by choosing to put on such an empowering musical.
I was blown away with the opening prologue, when the actors laid on stage asleep before the show had properly started. As the curtains rose behind the actors and the band started playing, the choreography instantly took the show, and actors, away from their slumber. The giant clock featured in their set was imitated by the cast, hands moving accordingly to the hour on the clock in the middle while everyone pulsated to the ticks of a clock. This was a well-rehearsed start with an absolutely unique take on the presentation and choreography.
However, it was evident throughout each scene that the dancing needed polishing: it lacked the energy needed to reach their fingertips, and many moments were unsynchronized and untimely. Although the choreography and accompanying lighting was extremely intriguing in the beginning, it ultimately became too repetitive – making this unfortunately a generic presentation of a musical set in the 60s and 70s.
Nonetheless, it was a smart idea to have one set stage design with three levels. The actors utilized all the spaces of the stage perfectly, for example in the sequences where Judy, Doralee, and Violet fantasized about killing Franklin. Changing the lighting, sound, actors’ placement on stage, and (fantastic) costuming to convey the change in narrative space (from ‘reality’ to ‘fantasy’) was a clever effect.
Doralee’s (Alice Hoult) singing was strong and powerful, the actress effortlessly connecting with her character. However, I did wish this could be said about the rest of the cast. Whilst their singing was up to a high standard, it also lacked the emotional depth needed to convey some of the heavier numbers. The actors, despite having lovely voices, did not seem to connect with either the script or with the music. More often than not, they seemed to be reciting and portraying the emotions drawn from the script and not the character themselves. Still, perhaps this was due to the unfortunate mis-balance of vocal mics and the band. Although the band played amazingly, it overshadowed a large part of the dialogue and singing.
Notably, however, Daniel Stansfield did a fantastic job playing such an unlikable character of Frank. His ‘Here For You’ number was very convincingly played, his misogynistic and egotistic personality ringing through the overtly sexual choreography. Also, special mention should go to to Joe (Yann Davies), who played his role perfectly, his love duet with Violet also sung beautifully and conveyed with the perfect amount of emotions. He truly embodied his character – it was a shame his voice was hidden until Act 2!
PHOTOS: Andrew Perry