The tour of Dolly Parton’s musical 9 to 5 is currently creating much fun and frivolity in our regional theatres. With music and lyrics by Dolly herself, and libretto by Patricia Resnick, it’s a show that never takes itself too seriously and – judging from the audience at the performance I saw – it’s a great girlie night out too. For those who missed the original film version which starred Dolly herself, the story is set in an office in 1979 where the boss is a male chauvinist pig who views the women as sex objects with no rights in terms of equal pay, flexible hours or childcare. And just to make sure that we’re all following, Dolly herself appears on screen (and inevitably in the show’s logo and publicity even though she isn’t actually on stage in person), to introduce the show as only she can and to point out the main characters. Subtle this show ain’t.

Having seen and enjoyed 9 to 5 during its brief Broadway run a few years ago, it’s now been streamlined a little, with less emphasis on the subplots of the women’s lives outside of their work, and a scaled down dream sequence in the first half that is a little less imaginitive than the previous, equally unbelievable, sequence. Nevertheless, the pace remains frenetic from the word go – the exciting opening sequence featuring the title song ups the ante from the very start too. The three female protagonists who plot revenge on Mark Moraghan’s egomaniacal boss, Franklin Hart, are well contrasted characters. Jackie Clune’s Violet is at her strongest when encouraging the office girls to improve both themselves and their surroundings, vocally channeling Alison Janney’s original Broadway portrayal. The subplot involving the inner conflict of this ‘one man woman’ widow when receiving the attentions of a younger colleague is quite charming (especially their duet ‘Let Love Grow’), even if it does rather come out of nowhere. Natalie Casey makes a gradual and effective transformation as Judy, a woman forced into taking a job when her husband (aptly named ‘Dick’) dumps her, to become a liberated lady full of self esteem and confidence – but sings an understated version of her powerhouse eleven o’clock number ‘Get Out and Stay Out’. And Amy Lennox was perfectly cast as the buxom Doralee (or should that be Dolly?), with just the right level of humour, comic timing and big hair. Lennox gives the character a strength and yearning to prove she’s more than just man-pleasing eye candy, and shines in her early solo ‘Backwoods Barbie’.

Bonnie Langford is clearly in her element as Hart’s secretary, Roz Keith, complete with an unflattering grey streak in her hair. Langford gives a real sense of humour and passion to a secretary madly and blindly in love with her boss, shining vocally in her solo numbers ‘Heart to Heart’ and the more poignant ‘5 to 9’. Her posture, poise and sheer enthusiasm despite any knocks she receives ensure that the audience remain interested and entertained by her character, and good use is made of her incredible flexibility and dance acrobatics.

The set is often brought on and off by the hard-working, non-stop ensemble, and the set, costumes and wigs give a real sense of nostalgia for the period. This was, don’t forget, a time of manual typewriters, no computers and no mobile phones. The three ladies succeed in their plot to dispose of boss Hart and his policies, creating an attractive and productive working environment (even Lisa Bridge’s hilarious turn as the office drunk gets rehab!). However, underneath all the pizzazz and bravado, there is a genuinely pertinent message for the need for women to be given an equal platform both in the workplace and at home. And musical director Mark Crossland must be one of the hardest working MDs on tour at the moment as the pace never lets up here. Dolly’s score is tuneful and singalong – and what this show lacks in sophistication, it more than makes up for in pure entertainment.