Eddie Perfect returns to the stage in 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL

After much delay, Dolly Parton’s glitzy and glamorous 9 to 5 The Musical has finally opened in Australia!

An adaptation of the iconic 1980 film, the show follows fierce feminist friends Doralee, Judy, and Violet navigating a world dominated by men. Packed full of brand new songs written by Dolly herself, the show is set to dazzle Australia as it tours through Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Taking on the role of Franklin Hart Jr, a chauvinist pig and president of Consolidated Industries, is the one and only Eddie Perfect.

Eddie Perfect

Eddie is one of Australia’s most multitalented and respected figures in the world of live performance. A writer, composer, and performer, his most recent work as composer of Beetlejuice The Musical on Broadway won him a nomination for Best Original Score at the 2019 Tony Awards. He has already made his mark in the fields of comedy, music theatre composition and book writing, playwrighting, screenwriting, classical music, jazz and acting for stage and screen.

He has won multiple awards for his work both as 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 (Beetlejuice; The Musical) Simon Phillips and Neil Armfield (Shane Warne The Musical, Keating! The Musical), to the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, Victorian Opera and Sydney Theatre Company (The Threepenny Opera), Opera Australia (South Pacific), the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Under The Stars), Tripod (Perfect Tripod Australian Songs), Malthouse Theatre (Babes In The Wood, Drink Pepsi Bitch, The Big Con with Max Gillies), Sydney Festival and The Famous Spiegeltent (Misanthropology), Melbourne Theatre Company (The Beast, Vivid White), the Australian National Academy Of Music, lain Grandage and UK’s Brodsky Quartet (Songs From The Middle). Eddie’s television credits include the series regular role of Mick in Ten’s Offspring, as a presenter on Play School, host of The Crack Up for ABC Mental Health Week, Kath and Kim, Stingers, MDA, Spicks and Specks and as a judge on Australia’s Got Talent. Eddie has been a regular fixture on the Australian comedy circuit, and his solo music comedy shows have received Helpmann and Green Room Awards, touring Australia, New Zealand, Edinburgh and London.

With the show having opened in Sydney last night, we chat with Eddie about getting back on stage, playing the bad guy, and working on a show written by the country queen herself.

As a writer, it must be so nice to be on the other side of things for once!

Eddie: It’s so good, but they are two sides to a really interesting coin. You have great things about it, but there’s also really scary things about it. I was all “gung-ho, this is great, I don’t have to do any rewrites, or casting, orchestrations, arrangements, reviews,” any of that stuff. I just have to turn it up and act. But, you know, there’s a reason why that’s a full time job – it’s quite difficult to do that. So I’m very much enjoying it. I’m enjoying the fact that it’s quite a physical experience, you get up and you do it all day, and then you go home and kind of leave it, and then you come back again. I like that, whereas writing is very physical and very mental and never stops, no matter what, whether you’re rehearsing or not.

Caroline O’Connor and Eddie Perfect in rehearsals | Photo by David Hooley

We’ve been waiting for 9 to 5 for a few years now – are you excited to finally be getting into it?

Eddie: Yeah, it’s amazing. No disrespect intended to all by this, but I really thought that it had just gone away, you know? But we had this gap in the in the pandemic where everything was coming back, and it just felt totally right to bring it back. I thought they were going to cancel it with Omicron and everything like that, but no, the amount of chutzpah and courage that comes from the producing team of Suzanne and John… it’s really awesome. We’re going to follow all the best practices and we’re going to do it. They’re prepared to take the risk, and I’m prepared to work my ass off to make it happen.

The cast of the show features not only some of our best up and comers, but some of Australia’s most established names in Music Theatre. Had you worked with any of the leading ladies before?

Eddie: The cast is amazing. I know Marina [Prior] and Caroline [O’Connor] a bit, and I know Casey [Donovan] a little. I didn’t know Erin Claire very much at all. But holy smoke, the four of them are so great to watch in the room. And we’re all in the same boat, we’re all like trying to remember how this goes. How do you put on a show? How do you act? What’s the process? You know, it’s always a little bit daunting, even when you’re match fit. But having two years away from it, it really kind of makes the whole thing interesting.

In recent years, the world has shifted to focus closely on feminist issues, specifically examining how women are treated in the workplace. How does 9 to 5 tackle these ideas?

Eddie: The ability for men to hear women and work collaboratively and deeply with women is to see women as human beings. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be there yet. I’ve been watching the rehearsals and trying to think, what is the endgame of this show? What is it saying? I mean, it’s saying a lot of things like encouragement is a lot more constructive and gets a lot better results out of people than criticism, and collaboration is better than selfishness. But there’s also a great lot of “what if?” and “why does the world have to be this way?” There is this great song called ‘Change It’ which basically says “if you don’t like the way things are, change it.” I really enjoy art and theatre that speaks to that notion of going, you know, what can you do personally, without kind of pointing fingers at governments or nasty bosses or the corporate boys club? What can you do to change things, and why is it worth putting the effort to try and change things? I think that’s a cool message. And what’s good about the show, too, is that it’s not saying “all men are villains and all women are virtuous and amazing.” Like, the women make big mistakes. The way they treat Doralee, the Dolly Parton character [played by Erin Clare], and the presumptions they make about her because she’s attractive and because she dresses in a her own kind of unique way is really, really awful and really damaging to her. I think the piece deals with that really well. So it’s not a black and white show

Eddie Perfect and Erin Clare as Franklin Hart Jr. and Doralee Rhodes | Photo by David Hooley

Your character, Franklin Hart Jr, acts as the main antagonist of the show. How have you found playing such a vile and sexist character?

Eddie: I’m still working my way through how to play this guy [chuckles]. He’s just f*cking horrible. But I think at the bottom of these men there is a deep insecurity. There’s always a fear of what would happen if things change. I think probably, instinctively, those guys know that their power is something that’s been inherited just because of their gender and their privilege. And there’s a sense that “If I don’t keep this power dynamic the same, I could lose everything I have.” It’s interesting because there’s comedy in it too, there’s a little bit of “oh my god, I can’t believe he actually said that.” And it’s hard, because I don’t want to make him a moustache twirling kind of vaudevillian pantomime villain. But at the same time, I don’t want to turn into an HBO Drama either. So it’s trying to find the balance between those two things, which is actually quite tricky. He’s a bad guy, but he gets his comeuppance, which is kind of enjoyable. I think if he’s not a bad guy, then the his downfall isn’t as enjoyable.

And 9 to 5 is packed with new music and lyrics written by Dolly Parton herself!

Eddie: 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 that it was a whole bunch of Dolly songs shoved into a narrative, and it’s not. They’re all original songs, they’re all written for the characters. And they’re great songs. Dolly Parton is a great songwriter and the way the songs are being integrated into the script is very, very good. The script is super impressive and it’s got great vocal arrangements. I open up the score and in the arrangement and musical direction credits there’s Stephen Oremus, who is one of Broadway’s great musical supervisors and orchestrators and arranged the Book of Mormon, Wicked, Disney’s Frozen, he’s a super powerhouse guy. And then Alex Lacamoire, who people would probably know as the 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?

Eddie: It’s always really hard because different things appeal to different people. But I can tell you why I would go and see the show. It’s mainly for these powerhouse women. For anyone who’s a fan of musical theatre in this country, this is going to be a really great showcase of their favourite performers doing what they were born to do and what they’ve been doing their whole lives. It’s going to be a great night of music. It’s quite emotional. It’s very funny. I mean, I think we all need a comedy right now [chuckles]. And as for the scary side of things, the theatres are properly ventilated, all I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, it’s incredibly safe.

9 to 5 The Musical is currently playing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre.

For tickets and more information, visit 9to5themusical.com.au

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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