REVIEW: 9 to 5 the Musical – Birmingham Midland Operatic Society highlights toxic culture
The musical version of screwball comedy film 9 to 5 is back in the city in a new thought-provoking production which highlights toxic culture in the workplace.
9 to 5 the Musical by Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society is currently playing at The Alexandra Theatre.
The stage musical is based on the 1980 Hollywood film starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
Made for $10 million, the movie went on to gross over $100 million and later spawned a Broadway and West End musical.
Country music legend Dolly Parton – who wrote the Oscar and Grammy Award nominated title song for the film – penned the lyrics and composed the music for the stage musical while the book for the musical is by Patricia Resnick.
The story in this thought-provoking show is set in 1979 but the themes of misogyny and discrimination in the workplace chime with the current era where women continue to suffer abuse and sexism on a daily basis in their professional lives.
The musical tells the tale of three women – Doralee, Judy and Vioet – who work in an office run by a coercive and bigoted boss who uses his position to carry out horrendous abuse which no one seems to challenge due to a toxic climate of fear and intimidation.
On the surface the show bubbles along with joyful bursts of energy which includes catchy songs and sensational dancing, but beneath the colour and gloss a stark truth begins to emerge. Despite the passing of four decades since the original film – upon which this musical is based on – was released, the deplorable and inexcusable abuse against women continues to the present day.
Director Stephen Duckham keeps a tight grip on the balance between comedy and drama but there were moments where the slapstick elements seemed to swamp the more pertinent themes.
This new production of 9 to 5 the Musical is by the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society which has been staging shows since 1927 when two companies – the Birmingham Opera Society (formed in 1886) and the Midland Opera Society (formed in 1916) – merged together.
The talented cast push themselves to deliver performances that require a great deal of stamina for the various song and dance – and dramatic – set pieces.
The choreography by Aaron Gibson is very involving and gives the ensemble ample opportunity to showcase some exciting footwork.
The production underwent some technical issues on opening night – sound balance was uneven in some scenes, and microphone distortion was also noticeable – but these issues will hopefully be addressed and ironed out before the next performance.
This is a razzmatazz of a show which makes you laugh while making you think about some very serious issues regarding the rights and personal safety of women that need to be addressed urgently.
VERDICT: ★ ★★☆☆
9 to 5 the Musical is now playing at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday 17 June