(Images through Helen Bennett & Natasha Ince - New Era Photography)
As a fan of the 1980 film ‘9 to 5’, I have been lucky enough to have caught a live version at the Wolverhampton Grand once before, so I suspected myself and the audience were in for a treat with the South Staffs Musical Theatre Company version. I did wonder a little bit though if it would be up to the same standards, especially as one of the main characters, Violet Newstead was to be played by a different actress (Zoe Wiltshire) at very short notice due to illness.
The first five minutes were a little on the quiet side, but it was a cold night and I think the audience literally needed to warm up! After this though the cast got their confidence and I was blown away by the performance!
Dolly Parton was there in spirit by a sort of video link which added to the atmosphere. Being familiar with the show, some of the more humourous moments came back to me and I correctly silently predicted when myself and the audience would be in hysterics!
The story of how egotistical, bigoted, sexist boss Mr Hart is brought to justice by three of his female staff (Judy, Doralee and Violet) really struck a chord with the audience. Infact Simon McGee’s portrayal of Mr Hart was so convincingly despicable at one point people sitting behind me exclaimed in shock and anger at one line saying how it must be “her time of month”! This is a real credit to his performance and a reassuring nod to how times and attitudes in the workplace have changed since the late 70’s!
Praise should be given to every one of the actors, but Lexie Bennett was an extremely convincing Doralee Rhodes. This role was played by Dolly Parton in the film and Lexie had Dolly’s accent look and mannerisms down to a tee!
Considering Zoe Wiltshire had stepped in to play the role of Violet Newstead at the last minute, she was very good too and the audience really took a shine to her warmth.
There were two highlights for me personally, one was when Roz Keith (played brilliantly by Natasha Bennett) hilariously revealed her secret romantic feelings towards Mr Hart to the audience in the song ‘Heart to Hart’; and the other was when Judy Bernley (played by Abbie Rai) sang a moving and empowering ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ to her ex, Dick. Despite there being many great musical numbers, this actually got the best audience reaction.
A lot of thought and attention to detail has been put into this. The costumes, sets, choreography, and orchestra (directed by Rob Murray) are outstanding!
This performance certainly won the hearts of the audience and I would recommend catching this for a fun-filled, uplifting night out to brighten your Autumn!