OTwo Reviews: 9 to 5 at UCD’s Astra Hall

9 to 5, directed by Michael Bergin and Cormac Gilligan, ran in UCD's Astra Hall from November 23rd to November 26th, as UCD Musical Society's semester one show.

9 to 5 is based on the 1980 movie of the same name directed by Colin Higgins, and features music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. It centers on the downtrodden working lives of three women, Violet, Judy, and Doralee who all work for “Consolidated Industries”. Violet has worked there for many years, but has never been given the chance of promotion, Judy is newly separated and joins the company having never worked before. Whereas Doralee is a happily married country girl, but she is ostracized by the other female workers. 

After Judy has an awful first day, big boss Hart (Gearoid Riordion) passes Violet over for another promotion, and Doralee finds out that Hart has been telling everyone they are having an affair, the three women unite in their hatred of Hart. Over a joint, they fantasize about how they would kill him. When Violet almost unwittingly poisons Hart the next day, he blackmails the three women, threatening them with the police. But in Hart’s absence, Violet, Judy, and Doralee run the office to great effect. They introduce childcare, hour-long lunch breaks, rehab programs, and much more to benefit the staff at Consolidated Industries. 

Taking on a more lighthearted and vibrant production after their latest musical production of Urinetown in Semester 2 of 2021, this rendition of 9 to 5 directed by Musical Soc’s Bert and Ernie, Michael Bergin and Cormac Gilligan, was an enjoyable experience with a fresh cast of excitable talent. 

The plot of 9 to 5 highlights a small yet strong part of America’s feminist movement in the 1970s, engaged by an organisation called 9to5 which was sparked by secretaries and office workers seeking better pay, more advancement opportunities and an end to sexual harrasment. 

The iconic trio of Judy, Violet and Doralee, brilliantly played by Chloe Burke, Jennifer Byrne and Lia Mullen respectively, lead this uplifting musical expressing genuine support, compassion and enthusiasm for each other with stellar vocal strength to match. Even though Hart (Riordan) is, to quote, a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot and the antagonist of the plot, it’s hard to hate him, as the utter talent oozes from Riordion’s consistent performance that not even a climbing harness could alter. The audience couldn’t get enough of the cast’s wild card Roz Keith (Alice Morgan), who though had few snappy scenes, was always greeted with a shaking room of applause at her performances of ‘Heart to Hart’ and ‘5 to 9’. Exceptional casting done across the board by Bergin and Gilligan. This includes the whole ensemble that brings to life the opening sequence of the titular song, throwing us right into the bubbly and enthusiastic Southern American world of the 70s. It’s safe to say that every single person on that stage was giving all the energy and smiles they could, despite the lackluster energy of the audience that night, the ensemble's charisma was never deflated. It is obvious how much fun the cast were having in stand out ensemble numbers such as ‘Around Here’, ‘Shine Like The Sun’ and ‘One of the Boys’. 

With these songs credit must be given to Vocal Directors Amber Dixon and Ava Barry, who made sure the harmonies and vocal quality of each actor’s range shone through, the songs were tackled with energy and understanding without taking away from the cast's stellar acting chops. Credit to Bergin and Gilligan for making sure to respect the plot’s more sensitive scenes involving the women’s experience with harassment and Violet’s subplot of struggling as a widow mother whilst trying to engage in a new relationship with colleague Joe (Patrick Mac Fhionnlaoich). Despite the genre of the musical appearing to be a comedy of satirical revenge, tender moments such as that were handled carefully and portrayed with great compliments of theatrics.

Although the extensive use of lighting didn’t seem to match the simple yet flexible set design, each creative department was used efficiently. It’s understandable why the dream song trio of ‘Dance Death of Dance’, ‘Cowgirls Revenge’ and ‘Potion Notion’ was taken out of the West End Production and UK Tour as it did seem to distract audiences from the main plot, however acted as comedic expression of the three leads and great ensemble numbers giving opportunities for all creative departments to shine including brilliant blood splatter lighting, red sequin dresses and impressive puppeteer skills. The 70s time zone was fulfilled through costume, hair, make-up and set design, creating a completely cohesive and era accurate look. Congratulations to all the cast and crew.