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REVIEW: 9 To 5 The Musical at Sunderland Empire

9 To 5 The Musical
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 9th November 2019

Music & lyrics: Dolly Parton
Book: Patricia Resnick
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Choreographer: Lisa Stevens
Designer: Tom Rogers
Musical director: Simone Manfredini

The 80s film about gender politics in the office gets a musical reboot this week at the Sunderland Empire.  As the office staff get their revenge on the bosses you have the right composition for the feelgood musical of the season.

Dolly Parton is on the posters and sure enough she is the first to appear on the video screen built into the huge 9 to 5 logo.  She narrates at the beginning and end of each act. She even sings the titular song.

Talking of the set, it is impressive to see rows of old fashioned monitors on top of white computer base units on the sides and ceiling of the set. The far wall has a huge video screen which gives the effect of going up and down the floors as you move from typing pool to bosses’ suites. This combines to give a very effective set onto which to build the action.

The story centres around three ladies: Violet (Laura Tyrer) is "too old to chase but too good to fire", Doralee (Stephanie Chandos) has a reputation for being popular with the boss and the Judy (Amber Davies) is starting her first day at work after her husband, Dick (Edward Chitticks) left her for his younger secretary. The odds are stacked against the group. There is no such thing as equal pay - the lad in the mail room earns more - and the lecherous bosses get away with horrific behaviour.

Post #metoo it is uncomfortable rather than funny to see the boss, Franklin Hart Jnr (Sean Needham) trying it on as a member of staff takes notes. On balance, the later revenge scenes just about make the setting up of the situation dramatically bearable, but there were some in takes of breath from the audience. It is good to see that we have moved on as a society in a number of ways – though there is still work to do to smash the glass ceilings.

A good musical needs big musical numbers and sharp choreography. The songs are well sung but are often just functional to the narrative. Put it this way the only song that one remembers afterwards it the title of the show. The choreography is, however, sharp and fills the stage with movement. The busy office is made vibrant as documents move around. It is very well done. Likewise, the live band also give a great performance during each number.

This is a good comedy with a strong likeable cast. The comedy elements start with Judy stating that misses her husband Dick, and it builds up as the first act draws to a close.  Office politics and glass ceilings are as relevant today as they were in the late 70s when the film was in production. The stalls were on their feet at the end applauding everyone, reflecting an enjoyable night at the theatre.

Review by Stephen Oliver
Photos: Craig Sugden

On The Web:
Instagram: @9to5themusicaluk
Facebook: 9to5TheMusicalUK
Twitter: @9to5MusicalUK
YouTube: 9 to 5 The Musical

Tickets available in person at the Box Office (12-4PM) on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online at #Ad
*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your plus your phone company's access charge. Booking and transaction fees may apply.

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