The opulent and gorgeous State Theatre at Arts Centre Melbourne was abuzz with anticipation and excitement for the opening of 9 to 5 The Musical. Notable members of the entertainment and performing arts industry held themselves with quiet poise and grace as those of us who are not so, snuck sideways glances and muttered to our friends about who we spotted in the crowd.
Such is the joy of live theatre. Every experience is different, from each performance to who one may brush against getting to one’s seat.
A large golden and sparkling ‘9 to 5’ adorned the stage as the orchestra warmed up, the movement colour and commotion electrifying the expectant audience.
It was all bought to a surprised gasp when Bryn Bowen announced the commencement of the show with a loud and commanding flam tap on the snare drum. The orchestra swelled into the first bar of the titular song as Dolly Parton appeared on the stage (in a recorded sense) and welcomed all to her show.
While cute with a sprinkle of glitz, Dolly set the tone for the rest of the evening. A tone of giddy fun, and silly combined with authentic, heart-rending lyrics written by one of the 20th century’s most prolific and loved recording artists. She sure does command attention.
And so began a wonderful and rousing story comprising strong character development, commentary on the state of sexism and inequality in the 1980’s and how little has changed for women in the workplace since then, interspersed with perfect comedic timing and soul-touching vocals. The juxtaposition of gaudy, rhinestone-like moments against perfectly authentic emotion is testament to Patricia Resnick’s skill with the pen, as well as the rest of the creative team who have honed and tweaked the performance for the Australian audience.
The main cast were magnificent. Erin Clare gave a pitch perfect performance as Doralee, the shows analogue of Dolly, while the ever-graceful Marina Prior soared as the tired and world-worn Violet. Caroline O’Connor’s Roz was a wonder to behold, not only for her perfect timing and pizazz but also for her astounding and powerful vocals.
Eddie Perfect was…perfectly (sorry, not sorry) cast as Franklin Hart Jnr, the boastful and ever lecherous antagonist of the story. As Mr Hart moved through his journey from high praise to deep pain, Perfect became more masterful with each moment. He balanced a ‘Jack Black-esque’ boisterousness with a ‘Bud Abbott’ straight man routine. Wonderfully dark and ugly to light and cheesy. During ‘Always a Woman’ and while suspended 9-12ft from the stage, his voice seemed otherworldly, effortlessly swinging from his honeyed baritone to awe-full (nearly gotcha) vocal runs and back again.
And then there was Casey. Ms Casey Donovan as Judy exquisitely shone at every possible moment. Donovan managed the ‘hero’s journey’ of Judy with effortless grace; ‘Get out and Stay Out’ was simply amazing! Casey switched from tight, small, and sharply painfilled phrases to awe inspiring and rousing crescendos. So powerful and moving was her performance that she rightfully bought the audience to their feet in a well-deserved and authentic standing ovation.
The glorious ensemble was precise and effortlessly meticulous in their performance. Of singular note was Ethan Jones’ performance as Joe. He perfectly matched the effortless Marina Prior with his warm and dulcet tones during ‘Let Love Grow’. And under all of it was the brilliant orchestra led by James Simpson. Dave Nedick’s work on the trumpet was sublime.
Overall, the Australian cast and crew of ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ are more than deserving of the many accolades being lavished upon them. In the words of another Australian music legend ‘do yourself a favour’ and go see it.
‘9 to 5’ shines at the Arts Centre Melbourne until early September. Purchase your tickets HERE.