9 to 5 The Musical – Petersfield Theatre Group
Date – 18th May 2023
Director – Mary-Rose Finden
Musical Director – Gareth Baynham-Hughes
Choreographer – Hannah Evans
Venue – Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of production – Musical
With Music and Lyrics by the Queen of Country, Dolly Parton, and based on the 1980s’ film of the same name, 9 to 5 The Musical was almost bound to be the rip-roaring success that it became. Pushed to breaking point by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss, three female workmates end up kidnapping him and running the company themselves, much more successfully. Ultimately, apart from depicting the unfair treatment of women in the workplace, the show is about friendship, teamwork, standing up for yourself and doing what is right.
Robert Ingram has once again waved his magic wand over the bar and made it part of the 1970s’ experience, and on entering the auditorium I could not fail to be impressed by the very professional, solid looking set (designed by Roger Wettone) that was the backdrop to the show and suited the domestic and workplace scenes equally well. Excellent props and furniture (manoeuvred on and off stage by the very hard-working crew under SM Michael D. Finch) completed the picture. Imaginative lighting and crystal-clear sound (by Max Burrage and Dom Turner of the Green A Team) were both excellent too.
The three protagonists were introduced by clips of Dolly herself – how do you follow that? Well Director Mary-Rose Finden has picked three powerful actors to fill these roles. Each developed their characters well and demonstrated powerful singing voices and excellent acting abilities. Jacquie Arnott was every inch the senior supervisor, eminently capable and frustrated at being passed over for promotion; Hannah Lattimer got the nervousness of new-to-the-workplace Judy Bernly just right, and blossoming as she gradually found her feet and confidence; while Alice Corrigan was a delight as the misunderstood Doralee Rhodes, with more than a hint of Dolly Parton about her. Her rendition of Backwoods Barbie was sublime.
Ben Gander really seemed to relish the role of evil boss Franklin Hart, hanging on to his misogynistic attitudes until he sees how well the women have transformed his company and tries to take all the credit for it. Lucy Summers, a veritable dynamo, excelled as Roz, his adoring office snitch, so loyal to the last that I almost felt sorry for her. Jack May brought great charm to the role of accountant Joe, never giving up hope of a relationship with Violet, and Mary Carmichael played office lush Margaret with a light touch – the drunkenness was never exaggerated.
The huge chorus was well corralled by Choreographer Hannah Evans. Choreography was precisely executed, and the stage and apron areas always seemed bustling and busy, as an office would be. The standard of singing throughout, by chorus and individuals, was top quality and the band (hidden away backstage) under MD Gareth Baynham Hughes, produced a great sound – although maybe a little too loud against the singers at times.
Despite the passage of time since 1979, and various pieces of legislation, it was saddening to read the comments from members of the cast in the (excellent) programme, and find that sexism in the workplace is still not a thing of the past. Perhaps shows like this should be mandatory viewing on all management training courses?
What a great show that was! Mary-Rose and team, you educated and entertained us in equal parts. Thank you.
NODA SE District 10 Representative