The internationally acclaimed singer of hit shows like The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables has the perfect vehicle to spread such unabashed joy.
She is starring as office worker Violet Newstead in the musical adaptation of Dolly Parton’s classic workplace movie, 9 to 5, sharing the stage with Casey Donovan (Australian Idol), Erin Clare (High Fidelity), Caroline O’Connor (Chicago) and Eddie Perfect (Offspring). “It’s joyous, it’s hilarious and it’s just simple fun,” she says of the musical, which was a smash on London’s West End.
So tell us more about the show.
What I love about it is that it’s got three female protagonists … and we’re not playing the wife, the mother, the girlfriend. We’re playing the people that push the narrative forward, and it’s about female alliances and joyful friendship, which is a wonderful thing. The script is by the same writer who did the movie, and the music is all written by Dolly Parton.
Those are very relatable themes, particularly for women dealing with an ogre of a boss like Mr Hart from the movie.
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, the workplace harassment, it’s still an ongoing conversation. It’s interesting, because the movie is from the ’80s, and a lot of the things they talk about are still an issue. I saw the show in London, and there’s quite a lot of wry laughter when they kind of say, “Gee, this unlevel playing field of payment, gosh, that’s going to be gone in a few years,” and this was written in the ’80s. But [the show] is not pontificating or lecturing at the audience.
It’s a fun night out.
It really is. It becomes ridiculous. I mean, we kidnap our boss and we string him up.
So many people love Dolly Parton. Why do people love her so much?
I mean, aside from the fact that she is a true genius and a flawless, peerless singer, I think it’s the fact that she is unashamedly herself. She is her authentic self, and she doesn’t bow to trends or fashion or the zeitgeist of the moment. She just is herself. I think people respond to that authenticity in her.
Do you have any favourite songs from the show?
The theme song 9 to 5.
I can’t get that song out of your head. I’ve been trying to all morning. Once it’s there, it just stays there.
It’s there! It’s there! Today, we’ve been doing a bit of press, and of course, everyone’s playing 9 to 5, and we can’t stop singing it. And I mean, that’s the genius of her song, the craftsmanship. In the show, I do this big sort of Broadway number with a whole line-up of boys, called One of The Boys, and it’s a gorgeous, big Broadway production number. And I love that as well, but all of the music is just fantastic.
Have you ever worked in an office, 9 to 5?
Never. I wouldn’t last five minutes. I would get sacked. I’m very disorganised. I’m terrible at admin and I would break the fax machine … there’s no such thing any more, but I’d break the printer.
Any final message for the audiences? What can they expect?
They can expect to laugh, to feel emotionally moved, and feel incredibly joyous when they walk out … and they won’t be able to stop singing the song.
9 to 5 The Musical
Capitol Theatre, Sydney: From 16 February, 2022
Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane: From 22 May, 2022
Photography by Peter Brew Bevan