A brand new production of ‘9 to 5’ has opened at The Savoy theatre in London and will celebrate its 100th performance tomorrow. The show is written by Patricia Resnick, who wrote the original 1980 film and features songs by the queen of country music herself, Dolly Parton. But far from being a jukebox musical, the show revolves around the same narrative as the film, which describes three women’s triumph over the workplace oppression of the early ’80s. The story is sadly still all too relevant 40 years on but it is delivered with a huge heart and plenty of humour by the talented cast.
Nina was brought on board to design video for the show. Since video complemented and completed Tom Roger’s set with an LED wall in the centre of the stage picture, this involved conceiving what the visual centre point of the design would look like throughout the show. It also involved extensive consultation on some of the custom engineered equipment used as well as a trip to Nashville to film Dolly Parton for her appearances within the show.
This was a hugely collaborative process across the creative and technical team. Nina worked with Tom Rogers (set and costumes), Jeff Calhoun (director) to set the tone of the spaces with video imagery and with Lisa Stevens (choreographer) on the stylisation of the numbers and animation. She also collaborated with the producers and writers to finalise the scripts for Dolly’s appearances.
Howard Hudson lit the show with sparkling clarity and Nina and Howard’s team linked their systems to allow colour control to be shared between lighting and video on occasions to ensure the stage picture came together harmoniously – even automatically in some instances.
The video design provides an ever-changing view through the office bullpen windows and out over the city and during transitions, it shows the journeys from place to place within the office – up to boss’ office; down to the foyer, across to the xerox room and the coffee counter that features an extended version of the set that matches so seamlessly to to the real stage that it’s hard to tell where the set ends and the video begins.
It also takes us into a world of fantasy for numbers such as ‘One of the Boy’s and starts the show with a title-sequence treatment taking us from alarm clocks at sunrise, through the streets and into the city to arrive at the doors of Consolidated Industries where the story begins.
Harrison Cooke, her video engineer, took on the job of finalising the right product and spec for the circular LED screen that is set within the clock of the logo treatment on which Dolly appears and with Blue-i to obtain the LED panels for the back all and proscenium screens. The rig consisted of a 5m x 5m LED wall with 2.5mm Absen black face LED units; and 13 LED panels set within the proscenium and a 1.8mm LED clock face. These were all fed by the disguise media server and linked to sound with timecode and lighting via an EOS lighting desk, programmed by Lauren Kunicki.
The animation team consisted of Letty Fox, Paul Roberts and Virginie Serneels with assistance from Ben Bull. The production co-ordinator was Laura Salmi.
The show is playing to ecstatic full houses each night and is currently booking until August 2019. You can find out more here: https://9to5themusical.co.uk/
Here’s what the press had to say:
[…] the show also has another coup: Dolly Parton herself introduces the show and joins in the title opening song “9 to 5” by video. The priceless presence and spirit of Dolly hovers over the entire show.
Director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Lisa Stevens keep the show bubbling with a sparkling, propulsive effervescence, and Tom Rogers’s design is dominated by receding banks of office computer screens and Nina Dunn’s video projections that supply their own wit.
★★★★ Mark Shenton www.londontheatre.co.uk/
A partly digital set by Tom Rogers and video designer Nina Dunn adds to the slick, colourful look.
★★★ The Stage
The set and costumes (Tom Rogers) are spot on, and the videos (Nina Dunn) are all easy on the eyes.