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Posted on January 29, 2019

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Nicola Rayner hears from West End star Bonnie Langford about her role in 9 to 5: The Musical, now at the Savoy Theatre. Photographs by Paul Rider

Bonnie Langford is on the phone from her sick bed. “I’m sorry I sound so awful,” she croaks. “I’m never usually ill: I got a cold at Christmas and it has developed into flu. I’m just taking some time at the moment, while I can, to get better.”

When we speak, Langford is weeks away from the opening of 9 to 5: The Musical at London’s Savoy Theatre, where she is reprising the role of Roz Keith – a character she played in the tour in 2012. “She’s the administrative assistant to the boss, Mr Hart, whom nobody likes,” she explains. “Roz is about the only person who loves her job, loves her boss – a little bit too much – and will do anything for him. She’s very keen on all the rules and regulations he lays down and she’s the only person who likes being there, at first.”

Langford is not the only one who’s having a difficult time with her health in the run-up to the opening: Louise Redknapp’s appearance in the show has been delayed until March, owing to injury, with Caroline Sheen taking on the role of Violet Newstead in the meantime. The musical also stars Amber Davies, Natalie McQueen and Brian Conley in a book by the screenwriter of the original film, Patricia Resnick, and a score by Queen of Country, Dolly Parton, who, rumour has it, will be in town for the opening.

“She has written a whole new score,” Langford tells me. “Dolly’s very keen to say that it’s not a jukebox musical: all the songs have been created by her specifically for this show, so they’re much better for the narrative and she’s written a couple of new numbers for this particular production since I did the tour, too.

The musical is directed by Jeff Calhoun, with choreography by Lisa Stevens. “It’s set in the late 1970s, early 1980s,” says Langford.  “It’s quite modern, quite sharp but it has a period feel to it.” In preparation for speaking to Langford, I revisited the 1980 film to refresh my memory. What struck me is how much of it still resonates today. “The whole story does,” agrees Langford. “It’s become less extreme nowadays but there’s certainly still a glass ceiling and I think that’s something they’re trying to get across: that yes, things have changed, but not completely…”

A longer version of this interview is available in the February 2019 issue of Dancing Times. Click here to purchase a copy.

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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