9 to 5 The Musical ~ Upstairs at the Gatehouse

9 to 5 The Musical stays at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until Saturday 30 September 2017 – book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Star rating: *****

9 to 5 the musical is a show I am extremely familiar with, I always feel that it’s the ultimate feel-good show and extraordinarily empowering to women in a tongue in cheek way! No wonder, really, given that it’s essentially a Dolly Parton show. Indeed 9 to 5 is surely the track that most people associate with Ms Parton.

9 to 5 the musical is based on the popular film and features an uplifting selection of musical theatre numbers, an excellent showcase for the actresses taking the lead roles. This particular production of the show has been produced and directed by Joe Hodges and it is without doubt the best incarnation I have seen. Although the space at the theatre is limited, the best use has been made of it with a set which blends into the background, allowing the performers to lead the action. Chris Whittaker’s choreography is slick, engaging, eye-catching, doesn’t shy away from technical splendour and works brilliantly in the space.

The story revolves around three ladies who work for Consolidate, from 9 to 5! Violet (Pippa Winslow), a widowed single mum who’s ambition is to be CEO of the company, Doralee (Louise Olley), glamorous ‘dolly bird’ who is a ‘Backwoods Barbie’ and wholly misunderstood and Judy (Amanda Coutts), a divorcee-to-be who has never been employed before. Their boss, Mr Hart (Leo Sene) is a chauvinist and egotist of the highest order, he’s dismissive of Violet, rude to Judy and regularly trying it on with Doralee, even though she’s happily married. Add into the mix, Roz (Samantha Giffard) who worships the ground that the boss walks on, and sneaks around to over-hear conversations and snitch on her colleagues. When a Marijuana-induced daydream of Violet’s almost comes to fruition courtesy of rat poison versus sweetener, the three women find themselves in an unbelievable situation, with their boss held hostage and they ship Roz off to France for good measure.

Leo Sene is superbly creepy, snivelling and easy to despise – he makes the character his own and has powerful vocal ability. Amanda Coutts is perfectly cast as Judy, perpetual worrier, quoting trivia when she’s nervous and Coutts has an incredible solo in act two – “Get Out, Stay Out” which she almost spits at her ex husband, what a performance de force! Louise Olley as Doralee puts in the right balance of Dolly Parton (who played Doralee in the film) and her own spin on the character. She’s sweet with an edge and “Backwoods Barbie” is one of the highlights of the show, such a beautiful musical number which plays to Olley’s many strengths. Pippa Winslow as Violet is a match made in musical theatre heaven. Not only does Winslow sing and dance (en pointe, too!) to an outstanding, show-stealing standard – she gives the character substance and appropriately underplays her part at times. The trio of ladies have a believable on-stage chemistry which moves the show along fluidly. Samantha Giffard must also be commended on an excellent comedy performance as Roz, not too over the top but just enough manic going on to cause her to stand out for all of the right reasons.

Miss this show at your peril, watching it on a small-scale will alter your perception of the story, the intricacies are laid bare and a stronger, tighter ensemble you will be hard-pushed to find. It’s a feel-good master-piece and I would gladly watch it over and over again.

Spotlight On… Choreographer of 9 to 5 The Musical, Chris Whittaker

9 to 5 will burst onto the scene at Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, London from 30 August to 1 October 2017, book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Read all about it here: 9 to 5

Chris Whittaker has choreographed the show and here he tells Break A Leg all about the process. 

How familiar are you with 9 to 5 The Musical and what will be your unique ‘stamp’ on the choreography for this incarnation?

It wasn’t a show I knew huge amounts about before I came on board with this production. I knew the obvious musical numbers (9-5 and Get Out and Stay Out) and I knew it was a big dance show, or at least has the potential to be. Having not seen any other versions of the show I have no previous choreography to try and emulate or compare my work to so I have free reign to do whatever I want with the choreography of the show.

Does the space influence your choices when you’re choreographing a show? 
Massively, from the set design to the layout of the seats it all has an impact on how I use the space and how I can achieve my vision of the show. For this version of the production we are staging it in the thrust (3 sided auditorium) which means I have to be constantly thinking of the view from all sides of the auditorium and check that no one side has been more favoured or neglected than another. It’s a challenge I really enjoy and makes the show even more interesting to work on.
Who are your personal inspirations?
In terms of my early career a big inspiration was Adrian Edmeades who was the choreographer I assisted for many years and who gave me so many wonderful opportunities.  As for the work of other choreographers, I have always loved the work of Matthew Bourne and his ability to tell a story through stunning pieces of dance and my biggest musical theatre inspiration is Peter Darling, his work is visually stunning and so intelligently put together. The “school song” from Matilda is one of the most incredible pieces of musical theatre staging I have ever seen, it’s such a wonderful combination of choreography, set design and direction that you can’t picture where one department finishes and the other starts.
Have you a favourite piece in your previous credits? 
Working on last Christmas’ production of Anything Goes was a true highlight, having brand new dance music written for the show and being able to create my own version of them was brilliant. Creating a new 4 minute dance break for the title song with amazing tappers made me so proud each time I watched them perform it.
What led you into a career as a choreographer? 
Like most choreographers I started out as a performer, became a dance captain and was lucky enough to have a choreographer who took me on to be his assistant on some amazing work, I was then offered a production to choreograph myself. This lead to another director asking me to work with them and I’ve been fortunate enough to keep working as a choreo ever since, I’m truly grateful for the amazing productions I’ve had the chance to work on in my short career so far and look forward to adding 9 to 5 to them.
Any advice for budding choreographers? 
Enjoy performing first. Don’t rush getting into choreography just because it’s somewhere you want to end up, the best choreographers are ones that have learnt and absorbed from the best around them. Be in the rehearsal rooms, see how mistakes are made and solved, learn how productions and ideas are put together and built through collaborations of directors, designers, MD’s and casts.

Finally why should everyone come and see 9 to 5 The Musical?

It’s a brilliantly uplifting and fun show with phenomenal cast performing some amazing songs. I can’t wait to get started on this production and think the team we’ve got together are all wonderful.
Thanks so much for the insight, Chris, I can’t wait to see what you’ve done with this fantastic show! I am expecting great things from the looks of rehearsals! 


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