9 to 5 The Musical - London

The uproarious new West End musical, inspired by the cult film.

Natalie McQueen on Bringing 9 to 5 to the West End in the #MeToo Era and Her Dream Trip to Dollywood

Natalie McQueen on Bringing 9 to 5 to the West End in the #MeToo Era and Her Dream Trip to Dollywood
Natalie McQueen in "9 to 5 The Musical"
(Photo: Pamela Raith)

Scarcely had Natalie McQueen finished closing out the hit London engagement of Kinky Boots before she was crossing the road to co-star with Bonnie Langford and Brian Conley in the West End debut of the musical version of 9 to 5, the iconic 1980 film that became a Broadway musical in 2009. McQueen plays the Dolly Parton role of Doralee Rhodes in the production at the Savoy Theatre for which Parton wrote the music and lyrics. So there was plenty to discuss when Broadway.com phoned for an engaging mid-afternoon chat.

Did you have any prior exposure to this stage version of the movie, whether on Broadway or in the 2012 U.K. tour that featured Amy Lennox as Doralee?
I wasn’t in New York while it was on, and I had some friends who were on the tour but didn’t manage to see that either. I think it’s quite nice that I could come into it with a complete set of fresh eyes and not have too many ideas of how it may have been done before.

What about the movie, with that amazing trio of stars [Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin]?
I watched the film a long time ago, but my boyfriend then put it on when I got the offer so I also watched it pretty recently, which is cool. It’s a great movie and those three together are just genius.

Is it hard to separate Doralee out from Dolly herself, since the part picks up in so many ways on the performer who originated her?
Doralee is a nice part because you can make it your own in some respects but at the same time we all know that it was Dolly who first played that role and that it’s very much based on her. So, yes, I do feel as if I can pull some from Dolly given that the role plays on the way she looks and the way she talks, and what I love is that throughout it all the character is strong and confident and has balls and strength.

Do you think some playgoers may be expecting to see Dolly live in the show, given all the publicity surrounding her participation?
I don’t think so, but you definitely do see a bit of her and she is involved in the show in some way. You get a little fix of Dolly, but she’s definitely not in the show.

What about changes for this production: are there many and will they offer up something new?
In our story, the character of Judy [Tomlin’s role in the film] is 21, so younger than she has been before and we discover her in the process of finding herself and finding her way, which is quite nice to see. Doralee is meant to be late 20s/early 30s, which is what I am anyway.

Caroline Sheen, Natalie McQueen
and Amber Davies in 9 to 5 The Musical
(Photo: Pamela Raith)

Are there any new songs?
We’ve got one for this production called “Hey Boss,” which Dolly wrote and, I believe, has recorded. It actually takes away the three dream sequence songs in favor of one here-it-is, punch-people-in-the-face number about how we feel about this boss [Dabney Coleman’s film role, played in the show by Brian Conley].

How does the thematic about sexism in the workplace chime with our increasingly enlightened times?
You know, I really do think 9 to 5 was massively ahead of its time, what with the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up. It’s still a musical and is fun and hilarious and a spectacle and all of that but it’s quite interesting how and when it was written about these women who stood up for themselves and a state of mind that is only really starting to happen now.

Have you ever worked in an office yourself?
Definitely not and I cannot imagine what that would be like—though I have friends that do. I would imagine that the lines between people get very blurred because you’re so close to one another.

But presumably the scenario in 9 to 5 relates to other workplaces as well?
Absolutely. No matter what the industry, everyone has had their experience, though obviously not to the degree that is happening in this show.

Once this ends, don't you owe yourself a vacation to Dollywood, Parton’s Tennessee theme park?
That would be great especially because I’ve never spent any time in the South. Maybe Dolly will take me—that would be the way to go [laughs].

What do you recall in particular of your time in London in Wicked?
I was there for three-and-bit years as first cover Elphaba and went on a lot. I’d love to go back and play that role, I really would. I know a lot of the creative team there, so every time I visit it feels weirdly like going home.

How does it feel now to have pretty well colonized [London street] the Strand, between Kinky Boots at the Adelphi followed directly by 9 to 5 across the street at the Savoy?
To hop from one show across the road to another one is pretty amazing. And I know every restaurant or coffee bar nearby that you could name.

Do you feel a renewed buzz around the West End with all the musicals about to open, between yours and Come From Away and Waitress and, further ahead, Dear Evan Hansen?
As far as the performers go, I think everyone’s just going home and passing out and then going back onstage. It was really exciting seeing the pictures of everyone queuing up for the open call of Dear Evan Hansen, and I’ve got friends over at Waitress where it’s all go, which is really great.

What can you tell us about Becoming Nancy, the Stiles and Drewe-penned musical, directed by Jerry Mitchell, that has Broadway in its sights?
I was part of the very first workshop, which was the first time I worked with Jerry Mitchell [who later directed her in Kinky Boots] and there have been a few workshops since that I haven’t been able to do. But there are still songs from it that I can reel off now, they are so catchy. It will be incredible—I know that for a fact.