Dolly Parton’s stage version of 9-5 works brilliantly as a musical, its star Natalie Casey tells Laura Davis
UNLIKE her character in the new stage musical version of 9-5, who takes some time to come around to the idea of holding her lecherous manager hostage, Natalie Casey has a clear bad boss fantasy.
“I did one job where I had a boss who I would have very much liked to stab in the eye with a fork but I didn’t because that is what being a professional is all about,” she says.
“Hopefully at one point he’ll lose a limb in a skiing accident. I don’t want him dead because that would be really mean but, you know, hideously maimed from above would probably be enough for me.”
Casey, 32, plays Judy Bernly in the production, which tours to the Liverpool Empire next week.
Bernly, played by Jane Fonda in the 1980 film, is forced to find a job after her cheating husband squanders all their money and runs off with his secretary.
The newest member of the typing pool arrives over-awed and inexperienced but soon finds herself embroiled in a scheme to kidnap sleezey boss Franklin Hart, Jr with two similarly maltreated colleagues.
The stage version is a full musical, with new songs written by Dolly Parton, who played Hart’s buxom secretary, Doralee Rhodes, in the film (the stage role is taken by Amy Lennox).
“You can’t just turn any film into a musical,” says Casey.
“I think that people do think that – that you can just get any popular film and put some songs into it.
“With there being musical interludes in the film, 9-5 does suit it. I also think it’s because Dolly Parton is a genius and she can really write a song.”
Casey was attracted by the way Judy’s character evolves during the show.
“It’s an interesting arc in that she starts off quite mousy and put upon and then right at the end I have quite a big song that describes what most women in the audience would have gone through at some point in their lives.”
She has always enjoyed the film, she adds, and regrets the lack of similar female comic roles available today.
“I’m a big fan of those late-70s, early-80s female comedy films,” she says.
“I think it was a really special time where women played parts in their own right. They weren’t just somebody’s wife and the comedy was about being genuinely funny, strong, powerful women rather than goofy anti-feminist role models.
“I don’t think those roles really exist any more. It’s gone downhill. The model for what’s funny now is young men talking about boobs, which is unfortunate.”
Perhaps this is why, when she was growing up in Rawtenstall, attending dance and drama classes, she found herself drawn to male roles.
“I wouldn’t mind Howard Keel’s part in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” she says.
“I used to watch that film obsessively and thought he was the coolest thing ever. It was always the men I wanted to be, randomly. I think they had better songs and didn’t have to wear those corsets.”
Casey’s last performance in Liverpool was in the Flint Street Nativity at the Playhouse in 2006, but she knows the city (“it’s got the best second hand shops in the world”) having spent three years starring in teen soap Hollyoaks, filmed in Childwall.
She was 15 when she got the job she describes as “like being at university but having money” in 1996. She left when her character Carol Groves, who at one point became psychic after a car accident, left to become a cruise ship singer.
“In some ways I regret not going to drama school because I think I would have learned certain skills earlier than I did but you can’t compare anything to actually working and doing it on a professional level,” says Casey.
“Hollyoaks gave me confidence at an early age and that’s always a good thing.”
Casey’s elder sister, Anna-Jane, is also an actress and helped her through theatre auditions after she’d left the soap. Musical theatre roles have included Serena Katz in Fame, at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre, and Paulette in Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, taking over from Denise Van Outen.
In 2006, both sisters starred in Hobson’s Choice at a theatre in Berkshire.
“I’d like to work with her again but who knows?” she says.
“It’s always a nice experience looking across the room and seeing somebody you know would give you a kidney if anything goes wrong.”
9-5 The Musical is at the Liverpool Empire from January 14-19.