Dolly Parton's '9 To 5 The Musical' is charming, swollen with love, and a perfectly feel-good night at the theatre.
Sharp choreography and an effortlessly energetic ensemble cast keep the show together, while the exceptional talents of Marina Prior, Casey Donovan, Erin Clare and Eddie Perfect steer the ship. It's a marriage of technique and talent that creates magic on stage, presenting a story beloved by many around the world.
An on-screen visit from Dolly Parton herself opens the show, which makes it already camp enough for the whole, packed Lyric Theatre on this, the show's opening night in Brisbane (31 May). Hearing the global icon Dolly Parton reference Fortitude Valley before '9 To 5' has even really begun is a fever dream in and of itself. Dolly acts as something of a narrator at various moments in the performance and this is very, very welcomed by the audience.
The stage is framed by huge computer screens and set pieces glide in and out of frame effortlessly from beginning to end. Simple yet slick changeovers mean the production moves incredibly smoothly, and each setting feels fleshed out and realistic.
'9 To 5' feels much more grounded and hearty than your average over-the-top musical stage show. While that formula is tried and true, and has given us some of the most incredible musicals of all time, there's a sense of realism and relatability in '9 To 5' that makes it all the more beautiful.
The same can be said for the music, too. It's still theatrical, and works well on the stage, but doesn't need all the bells and whistles. It's just gorgeous music sung expertly and crafted with love. Highlights include of course the ever-so-catchy '9 To 5', 'One Of The Boys', 'Heart To Hart' and 'Get Out And Stay Out'.
Marina Prior flexes her musical theatre muscles as Violet here. It's a wonderful, well-rounded performance and she nails the character development. Erin Clare's Doralee Rhodes shines, just like Dolly, and truly steals the spotlight when she's on stage. As a sidenote, the wardrobe department have really done a fabulous job on this show.
Eddie Perfect's Franklin Hart Jr is exactly as it needs to be – he brings the presence and intimidation of the powerful male figure while also illustrating his fall from grace with precision and believability.
The hilariously infatuated Roz, played by stage icon Caroline O'Connor also deserves a big hurrah ('Heart To Hart' is simply spectacular and one of the show's peaks). Roz is blinded by lust for her boss and this manifests itself in hysterical ways.
It's Casey Donovan, however, who is the one to watch throughout '9 To 5'. Theatre-goers have seen her take on roles like Killer Queen in 'We Will Rock You' and Mama Morton in 'Chicago'. . . These roles are larger-than-life and require massive vocal talents and a huge amount of energy, which Casey has nailed each time. Here, however, we see her as the softly spoken Judy Bernly, broken and ready for a new beginning. Casey's portrayal of this persona is not only spot on but genuinely poignant and emotional. Even the way Casey sings her musical numbers as Judy feels like new territory in the best way. 'Get Out And Stay Out' is the highlight of the show, and a decent sprinkling of impressed audience members were even moved enough to stand and applaud after the number had finished.
There are all sorts and styles of musicals, and '9 To 5 The Musical' is the gold standard of the kind of show that gets all its grandeur and magnificence from overwhelming charm and a palpable sense of adoration from those lucky enough to be in the room to witness it.