Sunday, October 2

9 to 5: The Musical – Sheffield Lyceum

“Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living / Barely getting by, it’s all taking and no giving”

I’m sure this sounds familiar, if not musically then probably existentially!

One of country music’s most iconic singers, Dolly Parton, wrote these well-known lyrics back in 1980 for the film ‘9 to 5’, which she then transferred to the stage in 2008 with the help of book-writer Patricia Resnick. Parton’s fingerprints are everywhere, from the tone of the music and lyrics throughout, to her on-stage presence as the narrator of the story; that was a cute and unexpected touch, although I’m not sure that the story was complex enough to warrant the level of narration it got!

9 to 5 takes us to a corporate office in middle America where Judy is starting her first ever job having been dumped by her husband for a younger woman. What follows is a tale of three women overcoming sexism and using every tool at their disposal to fight for equality, while demonstrating the value of good friendship. This show celebrates women from start to finish, but with adult themes and language throughout, this is not necessarily the best way to teach the concept of female empowerment to your young kids… perhaps take them to Wicked or Six instead!

The story is set back in the 1980s and is very much of its time. It was surprising to me that so many members of the audience laughed at the hugely sexist and inappropriate jokes and behaviour of the lothario boss, although I was very happy to join in the laughter as he got his comeuppance. Sean Needham must be praised for playing such an odious man with exceptional balance and comic timing. Similarly, Julia J Nagle as Roz, his devoted personal assistant, provided a brilliantly accurate representation of an 80s woman, besotted with her boss and blind to his faults, and who is who is entirely constrained by her acceptance of what is expected of her.

Vivian Panka, making her UK debut, shone as Judy. Her vocals were beautiful, and her character arc was spot on, building from Judy’s nervous entry into the world of work to a heartfelt and liberated performance of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ as she finally realises her own strength and worth.

While the show’s production numbers felt a little predictable and some of the physical items on the set were showing signs of wear and tear after nearly six months on tour, the overall design by Tom Rogers was brilliant. The use of a video projection backdrop gave unlimited scope for locations – it was a particularly nice touch when the cityscape moved up and down as the characters moved floors in the office building – and the gradual introduction of colour into the set and the costumes throughout the production to reflect the changes in attitude and office policy was both clever and extremely effective.

This show was the perfect girl’s night out: catchy songs, accompanied by an exceptionally talented eight-person band, gave us a welcome reminder that women do have power, and poorly behaved men do get their comeuppance – whether it’s 1980 or 2022!

9 to 5 is playing at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield until Saturday 12th February. Audio described, signed and captioned performances are available on Thursday 10th/Saturday 12th February. More information and tickets can be found here:

Reviewer: Jo Tillotson

Reviewed: 8th February 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★