Ah, the 70s. Big hair, big flares and big alpha males striding about the office like Tom Wolfe's Masters of the Universe a decade later (though in the 70s they were pinching bums rather than pinching funds). Based on the film, with a book by its writer, Patricia Resnick, and songs by Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 goes back 33 years for a battle of the sexes that was only going to have one winner.
Violet (Jackie Clunes) has her much deserved promotion blocked by boss from hell Franklyn J Hart (Ben Richards) who is chasing blonde with brains Doralee (Amy Lennox) all round the office - that's when he's not trying to sack divorcee Judy (Natalie Casey) from her first job outside the home. The girls women get together and, via some unlikely mishaps with sugar and rat poison and a through expert use of an even less likely rope and pulley system, they confine frightful Frank to his bedroom. Free to run the office as they wish, they introduce pretty much the European Social Charter to the workplace, and, wouldn't you know it, productivity soars amongst the now valued and happy staff and Franklyn has some explaining to do.
Though there's a bit of social commentary along the way, 9 to 5 is a traditional comedy-musical with some excellent songs (Backwoods Barbie is classic Dolly) beautifully played by a live orchestra. It also has Dolly herself, appearing above the stage inside a circular clock, like the baby in Teletubbies, dispensing wisdom in a Tennessee drawl. I really didn't expect ever to see such a sight!
Ms Clunes, Ms Lennox and Ms Casey do a fine job as the three contrasting women blocked by prejudice, but the best turns (and the show's best moments) are delivered by veteran hoofer Bonnie Langford (pictured, a scarcely believable 48 years of age) as boss's lickspittle Roz and Ben Richards as the unabashed sexist boss, Hart, all but twirling a dastardly moustache.
There's plenty wrong with 9 to 5: the characterisations are thin; the plot full of holes; the stereotypes oh so stereotyped... but this is mass appeal musical theatre - we're not workshopping Chekhov in a sandpit here! It's bright, bubbly and it has its heart in the right place. Most importantly of all, it's a lot of fun - and, after a bit of 9 to 5 and with the Blackberry buzzing with e-mails and texts long after 5 and well before 9 (how technology has liberated us), it was just what I needed.
9 to 5 is at New Wimbledon Theatre until 27 October and on tour.