Before the titular, double-Grammy-awarded opening number begins, we are exposed to a soundscape of cheesy 80s commercials for domestic products that serve to highlight some of the many pressures women are put under.
A peg above what you'd expect from a semi-professional musical theatre company
These set the scene for the money-fuelled, ambitious, misogynistic environment of middle-class America in the 1980s and also he tone of this production, with its dark undercurrent of social commentary, dressed up in shiny charisma and million-dollar smiles. This is just one of the imaginative ideas co-directors Helen Petrovna and David Barrett use to bring the show to life for us today, in this witty, extravagant production.
First staged in LA in 2009, 9 to 5 is a musical adaptation of the 1980 film of the same name, starring Dolly Parton and written by Patricia Resnick. Parton returned to write all sixteen original songs, with book by Resnick. The cult-classic film was first conceived by its star actor Jane Fonda, who wanted to make a film that would show that "you can run an office without a boss, but you can't run an office without the secretaries".
All members of the Cambridge Operatic Society are unwaveringly loyal to the film's essence, and the spirit of musical theatre. They explode onto stage for the big opening number, with every one of the 21-strong cast fully committed. The voices and American accents are variable, but this production has it where it counts: though Dolly Parton's portrayal of her is a tough act to follow, Vikki Jones' Doralee does not disappoint, with a fantastic singing voice and a witty, powerful performance. Her co-stars Emma Vieceli and Ellie Baldwin (as Violet and Judy) are also strong, and between the three of them they keep a frenetic energy pumping throughout the show.
But Katie Emma McArthur stands out in the supporting cast as Roz, the sycophantic assistant to the women's bigoted boss Mr Hart (Rodger Lloyd). She shines especially bright in her number Heart to Hart, which is a camp, rib-tickling highlight of the show. The variety and intelligence of Petrovna and Barretts choreography, along with dynamic set design, and costumes full of personality, make for some entertaining and occasionally extraordinary numbers.
There is a sense that this production is fuelled by a pervasive and infectious passion. In the interval, a screen shows messages by people recounting the women in their lives they find inspiring. Then, during the curtain call, it shows the names of every single cast member, followed by photos of their giddy smiles in rehearsals.
This labour of love, with its feminist joy, infectious melodies and attention to detail, hits the mark for Dolly and musical-fans alike, and sets itself a peg above what you might expect from a semi-professional musical theatre company.