9 to 5 the Musical

Musical Review - 2022 Australian Tour @ QPAC, Brisbane

Header Image: The cast of 9 TO 5 (c) David Hooley

As I have said a few times in the past, Dolly Parton is an astounding performer, creative mind, and philanthropist who deserves all the acclaim and adoration she receives from her scores of fans worldwide. While I have never gotten around to watching the acclaimed 1980s comedy film 9 to 5, which starred Parton as its leading character, I was stoked to finally dive into this cult classic through the form of its musical theatre adaptation. Following a false start in early-2020 at the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crossroads Live finally commenced its Australian tour earlier this year, officially launching at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s (QPAC) Lyric Theatre this week. Following the likes of Frozen the Musical in Brisbane would have been a hard act to follow for any production – but I think 9 to 5 the Musical certainly nailed it – both lyrically and comically.

Typically, I dislike anything pre-recorded content in musicals. Saying this isn’t an attempt at being hoity-toity, but rather whether it is pre-recorded dialogue or pre-recorded audio, it always comes to mind that there is an actor or musician out there who could have missed out on a job. So seeing that recordings of Dolly Parton were included in the show (in a giant cut-out of the 9 to 5 the Musical logo no less) did raise an eyebrow at first. However, there is this uncommon trope where talent who obviously could not appear in person make minor appearances in the show and is handled in a way that is both tasteful and adds to the overall experience. The last time I saw this was Lee Lin Chin in 2016’s Little Shop of Horrors, and having Parton not only make a custom pre-recorded message to Brisbane but also as a fourth-wall-breaking narrator to help set the scene helped set an upbeat and positive vibe to the evening.

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The cast of 9 TO 5 (c) David Hooley

From there, 9 to 5 the Musical unfolds similarly to the original movie, albeit with a range of new songs composed by Dolly Parton herself, along with altered pacing, revamped and new scenes and arguably a slightly more erotic tone from the creative book by Patricia Resnick (the screenwriter of the original movie). The story itself is simple, with three office workers – Violet, Doralee, and Judy – rising up against the “boys club” office culture prevalent in the era, a series of events unfolding which leads the womanising company president – Franklin Hart, Jr. – in quite a predicament as they begin making their own mark on the company. Despite being a relatively simple tale, this works in its favour, putting emphasis on topics that are topical and prevalent in society today, but balancing it out with individual attention to each character and many downright comedic moments.

So, let us look at the cast members. With 9 to 5 the Musical’s lead cast members consisting of the all incredibly talented Marina Prior (Violet Newstead), Casey Donovan (Judy Bernly), Erin Clare (Doralee Rhodes), Caroline O’Connor (Roz Keith) and Eddie Perfect (Franklin Hart Jr) – the producers put together a star-studded cast from the Australian musical scene. The problem with having a main cast of familiar names is that you might get an entire cast playing their traditional roles rather than finding that spark that makes them unique. Fortunately, the talent subdues my concerns quickly by having many of the cast play character profiles/personalities they aren’t usually seen portraying. The most notable of these cases was Casey Donovan, whose powerful vocals typically lend themselves to more overpowering or even downright evil roles instead of the soft-spoken new employee character Judy. They nailed the role! The same can be said about the other leading cast members, all doing something different from normal. 

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The cast of 9 TO 5 (c) David Hooley

Props do need to go to Eddie Perfect, however. The vile personality of Franklin Hart Jnr is one I envision many would struggle to stomach playing on a nightly basis. But he nails the role in ways that easily make him still appear antagonistic to the audience, but reduces the cringeworthiness and replaces it with genuinely comical actions and one-liners. I respect Resnick keeping his role as is, highlighting the issues of such a toxic element of some 80s office culture.

Nothing in the show managed to beat the titular song 9 to 5 when it came to pure catchiness, and throughout today (and likely for the coming weeks) it has made a comfortable nest in my subconscious mind, making me want to sing or hum it frequently (and not just between the hours of 9 to 5). But while it is the shining song of the show, it doesn’t dwarf other songs. I would argue that not all the songs in the musical needed to be present, and did occasionally break the pacing or otherwise sort of have me zoning out to them (but then again, the style of music isn’t necessarily my forte). In fact, even without the musical element, I think the show could have shone perhaps with only a couple of songs and played off the narrative. However, I both appreciate 9 to 5 the Musical not being a ‘disco musical’ crammed full of songs and using the narrative to justify them being there, and also that they gave every leading cast member one, incredibly strong solo number, which were highlights of the show.

The staging of 9 to 5 the Musical was minimalistic compared to other musicals touring Australia at the moment. It consisted of a giant digital screen in the background which was well utilised throughout the performance, multiple old-school digital computer monitors protruding from the wings which gave a sense of depth to the stage and also changed colours to suit the mood, and a variety of 80s themed props from work desks to some of the most flashy 80s couches I have seen in my life. Minimalistic staging when done right can be just as good as if producers had spent half the shows budget on set design alone, and they worked really well with what was available. 

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Marina Prior and ensemble in 9 TO 5 (c) David Hooley

Set changes were done well through lighting and choreographed dance routines to attract viewers attention, while I really loved the use of the giant digital screen to transport viewers to different locations (usually in Consolidated Companies office building). Sitting in the Balcony for this performance, however, the stage lighting drew a lot of my attention to the scuff marks on the stage, which for some reason bugged me quite a bit throughout the night. But that, comes with a stage as old as the Lyric Theatre and is not something I can fault the producers for.

While there are certainly deeper and more moving musicals out there on the market, for what it is 9 to 5 the Musical is a fabulous night (or afternoon) out for those after lots of entertainment, a little bit of reflection on eras past, or just to enjoy time with friends, family or on your lonesome. You may walk away with the song 9 to 5 consuming large swaths of your mental capacity, but in return, you get treated to two and a half hours of an incredible cast, and a show that does many elements of a fun-night-out musical perfectly!


Tickets to attend the Brisbane opening night of 9 to 5 the Musical were provided by Cinnamon Watson Publicity on behalf of the show’s producer Crossroads Live Australia.

Ticket information for 9 to 5 the Musical’s Brisbane and upcoming Melbourne (State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne) and Adelaide (Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre) seasons can be found on the show’s official website.

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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