Words: Simon Button
Fellow critics, I see your three stars for this stage version of the 1980 movie and I raise you a star. OK, so it’s not the most sophisticated of musical comedies but it’s a laugh riot from start to finish and - stepping into the hard-to-fill shoes of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton - its trio of leading ladies are absolutely fabulous.
Dolly herself sets up the story, addressing the audience via video message as she introduces us to office newbie Judy Bernly (Amber Davis), senior supervisor Violet (Caroline Sheen) and secretary Doralee Rhodes (Natalie McQueen).
They all work for Franklin Hart Jr (Brian Conley), a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” whom everyone hates except his adoring executive assistant Roz Keith (Bonnie Langord).
Hewing closely to the film’s plot, what ensues is a slapstick revenge comedy thriller in which the women get their own back on the odious Hart - and one which moves at breakneck speed, propelled by Jeff Calhoun’s fluid direction, Lisa Stevens’ nifty choreography and Parton’s breezy (if not especially memorable) score.
McQueen gets Dolly’s ditzy schtick down perfectly, Love Island winner Davis is a revelation in her first West End role and Sheen is quite brilliant as the take-no-nonsense Violet.
Conley really goes for Hart’s hideousness, making him a hissable villain for the #MeToo era, but the women are the true stars of this salute to sisterhood.
And while Langford’s Roz may be a buttoned-up ass-kisser, she gets her chance to shine - lustfully imagining, in fishnets and a basque, what it’d be like to bang the boss and, at age 54, doing the splits to the biggest cheer of the night.
9 to 5 is at London's Savoy Theatre until 31 August. For tickets click here.