After much delay, the glitzy and glamorous Dolly Parton 9 to 5 Musical comedy has finally opened in Australia!
An adaptation of the iconic 1980 film, the series follows fierce feminist friends Doralee, Judy and Violet navigating a male-dominated world. Filled with brand new songs written by Dolly herself, the show is set to dazzle Australia as it tours Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Assuming the role of Franklin Hart Jr, a chauvinistic pig and president of Consolidated Industries, is the one and only Eddie Perfect.
Eddie is one of Australia’s most versatile and respected personalities in live performance. Writer, composer and performer, his most recent work as a composer of Beetlejuice the musical on Broadway earned him a nomination for Best Original Score at the 2019 Tony Awards. He has already made his mark in comedy, musical theater composition and book writing, dramaturgy, screenwriting, classical music, jazz and theater and film.
He has won numerous awards for his work as both a performer and writer and has worked with top creatives from Baz Luhrmann and Global Creatures (Strictly Ballroom the Musical, King Kong Alive on Broadway), Warner Bros. Theatricals New York (beetle juice; Musical comedy) Simon Phillips and Neil Armfield (Shane Warne The Musical, Keating! Musical comedy), the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, the Victorian Opera and the Sydney Theater Company (The Threepenny Opera), Opera Australia (South Pacific), the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (Symphony under the stars), Tripod (Aussie songs perfect for tripod), Malthouse Theater (Babes In The Wood, Drink Pepsi Bitch, The Big Con with Max Gillies), Sydney Festival and The Famous Spiegeltent (Misanthropology), Melbourne theater company (The beast, bright white), the Australian National Academy Of Music, lain Grandage and the UK’s Brodsky Quartet (middle songs). Eddie’s TV credits include the series regular role of Mick on Ten’s Offspringas a presenter on play at schoolhost of The crackle for ABC Mental Health Week, Kath and Kim, Stingers, MDA, Spicks and Specks and as a judge on Australia has talent. Eddie is a regular on the Australian comedy circuit and his solo musical shows have won Helpmann and Green Room awards, touring Australia, New Zealand, Edinburgh and London.
With the show kicking off in Sydney last night, we chat with Eddie about his return to the stage, the villain role and working on a show written by the queen of country music herself.
As a writer, it must be so nice to be on the other side of things for once!
Eddy: It’s so good, but it’s two sides of a really interesting coin. You have great things about it, but there are also some really scary things about it. I was all “pushed up, that’s awesome, I don’t have to do any rewrites, or casting, orchestrating, arranging, reviewing,” whatever. I just have to crank up the volume and take action. But, you know, there’s a reason it’s a full-time job – it’s kind of hard to do. So I appreciate it very much. I appreciate that it’s quite a physical experience, you get up and do it all day, then you come home and let it go, then you come back. I like that, while the writing is very physical and very mental and never stops, no matter what, whether you rehearse or not.
We waited 9 to 5 for a few years now – are you looking forward to ultimately get on with it ?
Eddy: Yeah, it’s amazing. No disrespect to all by that, but I really thought it just went away, you know? But we had this gap in the pandemic where everything was coming back, and it just felt right to bring it back. I thought they were going to cancel it with Omicron and all that, but nope, the amount of sass and guts that comes from the production team of Suzanne and John… it’s really awesome. We’re going to follow all the best practices and we’re going to do that. They’re willing to take the risk, and I’m willing to work hard to make it happen.
The show’s cast includes not only some of our best talent, but also some of Australia’s most established names in musical theatre. Had you worked with any of the leading ladies before?
Eddy: The cast is amazing. I know Marina [Prior] and carolina [O’Connor] a bit, and I know Casey [Donovan] a little. I didn’t know Erin Claire at all. But holy smoke, the four of them are so awesome to watch in the room. And we’re all in this together, we’re all trying to remember how it goes. How to put on a show? How do you act? What is the process? You know, it’s always a little intimidating, even when you’re in good shape. But being two years away from that really makes it all interesting.
In recent years, the world has focused on feminist issues, looking specifically at how women are treated in the workplace. How it works 9 to 5 address these ideas?
Eddy: The ability for men to hear women and to work collaboratively and deeply with women is to see women as human beings. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be there yet. I watched rehearsals and tried to think, what’s the endgame of this show? What is he saying? I mean, that’s saying a lot of things like encouragement is much more constructive and gets much better results from people than criticism, and collaboration is better than selfishness. But there are also a lot of “what if?” and “why does the world have to be like this?” There’s this great song called “Change It” which basically says “if you don’t like the way things are, change them”. I really love art and theater that talks about this notion of going, you know, what can you do personally, without pointing the finger at governments or bad bosses or the corporate boys club? What can you do to change things, and why is it worth the effort to try to change things? I think that’s a cool message. And what’s also nice about the show is that it doesn’t say “all men are bad guys and all women are virtuous and amazing.” Like, women make big mistakes. The way they treat Doralee, Dolly Parton’s character [played by Erin Clare], and the assumptions they make about her because she’s attractive and because she dresses in her own unique way is really, really awful and really damaging to her. I think the play deals with that very well. So it’s not a black and white show
Your character, Franklin Hart Jr, is the main antagonist of the series. How did you find playing such a vile and sexist character?
Eddy: I’m still working on how to play this guy [chuckles]. He’s just awful. But I think that at the bottom of these men there is a deep insecurity. There is always a fear of what would happen if things changed. I think probably instinctively these guys know that their power is something that was inherited just because of their gender and their privilege. And there’s a feeling that “If I don’t keep this power dynamic the same, I could lose everything I have.” It’s interesting because there’s also some comedy in it, there’s a bit of “oh my god, I can’t believe he actually said that.” And that’s hard, because I don’t want to make him some sort of mustache-twirling pantomime vaudevillian villain. But at the same time, I don’t want to become an HBO drama either. So he’s trying to find the balance between those two things, which is actually quite tricky. He’s a villain, but he gets his payoff, which is kind of nice. I think if he’s not a villain, then his downfall isn’t as nice.
And 9 to 5 is packed with new music and lyrics written by Dolly Parton herself!
Eddy: A lot of people think it’s a Dolly Parton jukebox musical, you know? Because “9 to 5” is a pre-existing song, obviously. At first I thought it was a whole bunch of Dolly songs slotted into a narrative, and it’s not. They’re all original songs, they’re all written for the characters. And they are awesome Songs. Dolly Parton is a great songwriter and the way the songs fit into the script is very, very good. The script is super impressive and it has great vocal arrangements. I open the score and in the credits of arrangement and musical direction is Stephen Oremus, who is one of Broadway’s great musical supervisors and orchestrators and arranged the Book of Mormon, wicked, by Disney Frozen, he’s a super powerful guy. And then Alex Lacamoire, who people probably know as musical director and orchestrator of hamilton. I think it’s a real surprise show.
Why should people come and see 9 to 5 The musical?
Eddy: It’s always very difficult because different things attract different people. But I can tell you why I would go see the show. It’s mainly for those powerful women. For anyone who is a fan of musical theater in this country, this will be a great showcase of their favorite artists doing what they were born to do and have done all their lives. It’s going to be a great musical evening. It’s quite emotional. This is very fun. I mean I think we all need a comedy right now [chuckles]. And on the spooky side, the rooms are properly ventilated, all the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed out, it’s incredibly safe.
9 to 5 The Musical currently plays at the Capitol Theater in Sydney.
For tickets and more information visit 9to5themusical.com.au