This week I had the pleasure of interviewing esteemed broadway director Jeff Calhoun on his latest project 9 – 5 The Musical. I say latest project but Jeff has actually been working on and off on the show since 2010 when he directed and choreographed the first American national tour of the production. “It took me a long time to get it right, to be honest with you” explained Jeff.
9 to 5 the Musical is based on the hit film of the same name and tells the story of Doralee, Violet and Judy – three workmates pushed to boiling point by their sexist, egotistical boss and their plans for revenge! After a smash hit remounting at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End earlier this year, Jeff and his team are bringing this exciting new production to the Lyric Theatre in Sydney for its Australian debut.
Jeff is in Australia for just 2 weeks casting the supporting roles in the show (Caroline O’Connor, Marina Prior, Samantha Dodemaide and Erin Clare were announced last week) spending one week in Melbourne followed by a week in Sydney. I did try to get Jeff to pick his favourite city, but he deftly deflected my question explaining how extraordinary he thinks the food is in Melbourne but that you can’t beat Sydney’s views!
This is not Jeff’s first soiree down under he directed High school Musical – Live on Stage here in 2008 and recounted his experience when casting that show. “For some reason the most talent we found was here in Australia, I don’t know why I was surprised by that but I really was taken aback.”
Talking to Jeff about what he was looking for when casting 9 to 5 he explained, “I always look for someone I want to date, because I figure you are asking the audience to have a two and a half hour date with these people so it better be someone you want to spend time with.”
Jeff started his career as a performer and this insight has heavily influenced how he works with actors, “more than anything it helps me in the audition process, because I have been on that side of it,” Jeff explained. “As a director I try to create a really good atmosphere that is nurturing and allows people to be the best they can be.”
I wanted to know if Jeff had any advice for anyone keen to start a career in musical theatre, he told me, “Only do it if there is nothing else that would make you happy because it is so difficult and so few people can make a livelihood doing it, you shouldn’t do it unless you have eliminated every other choice.” Jeff explained that the “theatre attracts a certain type of blue collar-talent, and of course I love that cos that’s what I feel I am. ”
When talking to Jeff about 9 to 5, his passion for the project is palpable and he describes how infectious the material is for the audience. “It has the political message that goes without saying, but we do it in such a way that everyone has such a grand time. It’s really one of those go to the theatre and just, you know, laugh your butts off and have a good time evening and at the same time empowering women. With what’s going on in the UK, Australia and America politically, we couldn’t have our finger more on the pulse.” Hearing this I am not surprised that the West End production of the show has just been extended till April 2020 and I am sure the Australian production will be equally as popular!
9 to 5 the Musical is on from the 21st April 2020 at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney. To buy tickets visit www.9to5themusical.com.au/tickets