Printable Copy9 TO 5
The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of SA Inc (aka “The Met”)
The Arts Theatre
Until 20 May 2017

Review by John Wells

The Met’s South Australian premiere of “9 to 5” is a cheery success. It is wonderful to see amateur companies staging new musicals.

This breezy and light show (based on the 1980 film) is set in an office, presided over by the sexist, over-bearing and hypocritical bigot Franklin Hart. Three of his employees – who are, in various ways, victims of his ingrained misogyny – plot their revenge.

The combined creative team of Selena Britz (director), Jillian Gulliver (musical director) and Carmel Vistoli (choreographer) have worked well together to fashion a satisfying production. The music is the bedrock for the success of this show, and Gulliver’s band is tight and precise. The horns give a sassy warmth to the excellent rhythm section. Vistoli’s choreography is perfect for an amateur company; the simple movement showcases the better dancers but includes those who are not natural hoofers. The crew has worked hard too: the costumes are excellent (from office frumps to exotic black-clad vamps, with a sensational Hilary Clinton-style cherry velour pantsuit in the mix) and the complex set, with video projections, works well.

Britz has worked well to draw out good performances from the main players. Trish Hart (as the central character Violet) stands out. She is a delightful balance of brashness, ambition and vulnerability, and Hart knows how to deliver an old-fashioned gag. She sings strongly and finds some nuances in a simply-written character. She is well supported by Lucy Carey as the brassy and busty Doralee Rhodes. Hart and Carey are competent actors who create instantly appealing characters. Kristen Hatty (Judy, the third of the leading ladies) is less successful. She was hesitant and somewhat unfocussed, but she may have been suffering from vocal problems. Greg Hart has a wonderful time as the oily boss (with a Trump-like red tie) and sings with great gusto. He is funny and committed. Eve McMillan (as Roz, the boss’ Gal Friday) almost steals the show with her unhinged adoration, and Daniel Fleming has some nice moments of awkward romance.

The strong elements of the Met’s production cannot mask the fact that “9 to 5” is not a particularly good musical. Dolly Parton’s score is sweet and tuneful but largely forgettable, and Patricia Resnick’s book is over-long and wastes many opportunities for comedy. Despite a couple of good laughs, the examination of office gender politics feels very unsophisticated and dated. Possibly the creativity of musical was constrained by using the film as a template; in any event, too many scenes drag and the basic story-line takes much too long to establish itself and then reach its climax.

At times, there was a slight lack of cohesion in the ensemble, and some of the numbers were on the dull side. These slower moments were outshone by some excellent songs: the opening title song, “I Just Might”, and “Heart to Hart” (with clever choreography) were highlights.