Review: 9 To 5 (Capitol Theatre)

Venue: Capitol Theatre (Sydney NSW), Feb 16 – May 1, 2022
Book: Patricia Resnick
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Cast: Erin Clare, Casey Donovan, Caroline O’Connor, Eddie Perfect, Marina Prior, Lily Baulderstone, Ana Maria Belo, Zoe Coppinger, Mia Dabkowski-Chandler, Ben Gillespie, Emma Hawthorne, James Haxby, Emma Johns, Jay Johns, Ethan Jones, Antonia Marr, Josh Mulheran, Tom New, Jake O’Brien, Matthew Prime, Jackson Reedman, Jordan Tomljenovic, Jessica Vellucci
Images by David Hooley

Theatre review
Doralee, Judy and Violet are three very different kinds of women, working in the same office. Their story takes place in 1980 when the glass ceiling was even more impenetrable and belligerent than it is now, and in 9 to 5 we see them having to resort to some extreme high jinks, in order to get somewhere with their professional lives. The musical by Dolly Parton is based on the now legendary 42-year-old film, with a book by Patricia Resnick that cares too much about being family-friendly, to be able to make the show genuinely funny. Its well-meaning depiction of gender politics seems unconsciously outmoded, but will undoubtedly still resonate for many, in a world where women continue to struggle to achieve the most basic, such as childcare and pay equality.

Direction of the work by Jeff Calhoun is of the most conventional kind. There are no surprises, and nothing is particularly inventive, only an attempt to present a wholesome style of commercial theatre that might appeal to the widest of audiences. The musical numbers are exuberant, with choreography that is faithful to the period, relentlessly incorporating innumerable jazz hands and pirouettes. It is inoffensive work, that makes for a frivolous night out, although ultimately uninspiring.

Erin Clare, Casey Donovan and Marina Prior are the leading ladies, all charming and accomplished, able to bring polish to the glamorous staging. Donovan’s performance of the showstopping “Get Out and Stay Out” is a highlight, with some real conviction finally emerging late in the piece. Also memorable is the campy “Heart to Hart” by Caroline O’Connor in the role of Roz, who together with Eddie Perfect as Franklin Hart the despicable CEO, deliver some of the more animated, albeit clumsy, comical dancing that proves equal parts funny and awkward.

The old school feminist tale of 9 to 5 is intent on replacing a man with a woman, at the top of the corporate ladder. Two waves of progress later, we now understand that it matters little, the gender of the person in control. It is the way power is distributed and structured, throughout all aspects of our lives, that is important. Theoretical insight however, does not take us very far. We remain beholden to organisations that insist on few at the top, with the masses kept down below. We continue to hope that having women breaking through to seize power, will lead to some form of regeneration, but the wait for meaningful change, seems never ending.