‘Workin’ 9 to 5’, the title tune remains joyfully stuck in our heads after a sensational opening night in Brisbane by the stellar cast and crew. The Lyric Theatre, QPAC is luckily gifted with musical theatre excellence as the star-studded company grace the stage in the upbeat Dolly Parton approved feast for the senses. The West End smash hit inspired by the 1978 film of the same name arrives in the Sunshine State and appeals to all ages with side-splitting comedy, entertaining choreography, and old school theatre flair to match. The story highlights a range of issues including misogynistic, sexist leaders encroaching on women’s rights in the workplace and beyond. The show illustrates how women can take back control and empower one another in accomplishing a fair work environment together.
Set to Dolly Parton’s greatest hits the story follows a typical American office environment and the tale of Violet, Doralee, Judy and Roz among other women that keep the place running. All whilst putting up with the discrimination and sexist antics of their sleezy boss, Franklin Hart Jr.
Musical theatre superstar Marina Prior embodies the strong-willed, single mother, Violet Newstead. Marina is utterly brilliant as the committed long-term employee aiming for her big promotion. Her character is sick and tired of being pushed aside by the men in her life and snaps when is passed over for the promotion by dull co-worker Bob.
Marina exudes confidence to fight back with power and help from the other women in the song ‘I just might’ and the uplifting hopeful tune ‘Shine like the sun.’ Violet finds her new lease on love with her younger co-worker Joe played by the talented Ethan Jones as they sweetly sing ‘Let love grow’ with their gorgeous flirtatious banter. Marina shows off her stunning vocals in the fabulous number ‘One of the boys’ as she dreams of becoming an unstoppable CEO.
The role made famous by THE Dolly Parton Miss Doralee Rhodes is personified by the dynamic and entertaining Erin Clare. She brings a light and feistiness to the blonde heightened character who is trying to get her peers to see beyond the blonde and big hair to her brain. The office is spreading false rumours about her sleeping with the boss, and she is just wanting to make some real friends who respect her, and it is reflected in the gorgeous country tune ‘Backwards Barbie.’
Erin has a brilliant stage presence and incredible voice as well as a perfect country twang in her accent. She is the embodiment of not taking crap from nobody. This is especially evident when she sticks up for herself as she finds out that the boss has been propagating fake statements. Erin’s chemistry with her fellow co-stars is unpalpable and so enticing, this is particularly poignant when they are outside taking their lunch break getting ‘high’ and bonding about how they have fantasised on how they would enact their revenge on their terrible CEO.
Australian pop powerhouse Casey Donovan entertains the Sunshine State audiences as the lovable, vulnerable, and quirky Judy who is new to ‘9 to 5’ office work. Casey takes on a different role than she has in the past. She is optimistic but sensitive and dives into the psyche of a young woman who is rejected by her douche of a partner to be with his secretary. Her character is determined to prove people wrong that she is not a push over and people pleaser, this is evident in the song ‘Around here’ as she begins to find her place in a new unfamiliar environment.
Casey’s presence is intoxicating as her character’s naïve nature invites the audience in and erupts with applause for her killer vocals. It is likened to a rock concert at the conclusion of her eleven o’clock number ‘Get out and stay out.’ She brings an incredible electricity to the theatre as it is a moment that represents an army of women who have been unfairly treated, assaulted, or abused by the men in their life. Casey’s girl gang energy with Erin and Marina is so playful and powerful as they stick it to the man and fight for better pay, better opportunities, and an end to the subservient way of life their boss has enforced on them.
The legend of stage and screen Caroline O’Connor stars as the boss’s biggest admirer and right-hand woman Roz. The comedic performer wears her ‘hart’ and sass on her sleeve in this spectacle of a show. Caroline pulls out all the stops, her triple threat talent is not to be missed. She leaves the audience in stitches with her not so subtle love for their controlling boss Franklin Hart Jr. Her hilarious performance of ‘Heart to Hart’ is excitingly joyous as she confesses her undying infatuation for him. The star then shines in her act 2 number ‘5 to 9’ when she finds out Franklin doesn’t like her back. Caroline’s physical comedy is ridiculously magical, and she gives her whole self to the over-the-top role.
Incredible Broadway composer and lyricist Eddie Perfect brings a sly and sleaziness to the horrible boss Franklin Hart Jr. He is splendid at harnessing the role of the jackass that has no respect for the women in his workplace. His scenes with Erin as Doralee are a mirror up to society and the way men still treat women like prizes to be won or imbecilic who don’t have minds of their own. Eddie is on point with his self-centered number ‘Here for you’ as his character is delusional to believe that Doralee lusts after him too. Perfect is still a cocky jerk even when his employees put him in a harness above his bed so he can’t escape as they enact their revenge. Then he recounts throughout time it is ‘the women that bring men down’ in the Dolly Parton hilarious showstopper ‘Always a woman’ (so not true).
The fabulous ensemble in this production is committed to finding the essence of the working-class society through the joyful score of the iconic Dolly Parton. They all have a distinct wacky, soulful characters formed with a fleshed-out background story; it is gorgeous to witness. As an audience member we are wowed by the togetherness of the musical numbers and the incredible choreography that is performed to excellence. The ensemble opens the show beautifully with the title number ‘9 to 5’ and closes the show with the transformative song ‘Change it’ as they all band together to redecorate their workplace from the inside out. They change how restricted they are with the rules and relax with colour in the office. This musical is nothing without the powerful ensemble holding them together like enchanting Dolly glitter glue.
Speaking of Dolly Parton, she made an unexpected feature in the thought-provoking production. A recording of Dolly during the beginning and conclusion of the show to narrate and introduce the characters was so fun and special, the audience embrace it with gasps and joy. 9 to 5 is an inspiring, powerful deep dive into how women are treated in society, especially the workplace and although covered in sparkles and bright colourful Dolly Parton songs, it sheds light on the reality of the world we live in and how as a whole we need to learn and grow from the powerful message of being respectful and standing up for people that are oppressed. Come for the glittery toe-tapping musical and stay for the wonderful performances and women empowerment message that change is possible and necessary.
9 to 5 the Musical
Playing now until 2 July
Lyric Theatre, QPAC
All images supplied.