The Melton Musical Theatre Company are up and ready for work once again and all set for a ‘Dolly good show’ at Melton Theatre next Wednesday (February 28 to March 3), writes John Hurton.
A big American whopper of a musical, 9 to 5 may be frothy and frivolous but it is also genuinely great fun, based on the 1980 film written by Patricia Resnick, which gave country queen Dolly Parton her first screen role and led to one of her biggest hits in the title song and for which she has written the music to Resnick’s lyrics.
The setting is 1979 in the offices of Consolidated Industries where the feisty tale follows the exploits of three office workers turning the tables on their smug, egotistical, hypocritical, sexist CEO, Franklin Hart Jr (Andy Brown). All three women have their own personal problems going on: Hart relishing his power, keeps his management team as a strict boys-only club, much to the chagrin of long-time employee and office mother hen, the divorce-bound Violet (Rachael Barker-Evans). Meanwhile, mousy, dark horse Judy (Sarah Hancock) is forced into taking on her first ever job after her husband walked out, whilst Hart’s secretary, the happily married, more-than- meets-the- eye bubbly Texas girl, Doralee (Kate Felts/Nina Morrison) discovers that the reason for her office-wide unpopularity is that Hart has been spreading false rumours of an affair between them.
Gradually, the trio bond, deciding that enough is enough and it is time to get their own back. After smoking pot and fantasising about how they would put an end to their boss, they put their plan into action that leaves the hapless Hart kidnapped and trussed up like a turkey on Thanksgiving. An all-too-brief second act wraps things up in the tradition of all good musicals, where the villain gets his comeuppance and true order is restored. One would like to think that the themes of sexist inequality in the workplace as portrayed here were a product of the 1970’s and consigned to that era’s dustbin of history along with brown suits and typewriters, but sadly in light of recent events, the show seems to have more significance than was originally intended.
The story relies heavily on the central performances of the three female leads and they do not disappoint. Rachael Barker-Evans’ Violet is a dominant presence throughout and Sarah Hancock’s transformation from downtrodden wife to emancipated singleton is a joy, her 11 o’clock number Get Out and Stay Out wringing every ounce of emotion out of her liberation. The role of Doralee was taken in the film by Dolly Parton herself (who also makes a special appearance) and there’s no denying that Kate Felts (who obviously relishes her dream role) and Nina Morrison (who plays Doralee on the Saturday matinee) are channelling the great lady’s warmth and humour, none more so than in the terrific Backwoods Barbie. All four ladies bring out the subtleties in their characters and work well together.
Away from the main trio there are some other great performances, none more so than Andy Brown, suitably slimy and detestable as Hart. His is the standout performance of the show and dominates every scene he’s involved in with a perfectly judged performance and vocals that deserve a much wider audience. His featured number, Here For You is a thing of loathsome wonder. In the lesser roles too, the cast shine. Ryan Green as Doralee’s husband, Dwayne hits the spot and Gareth Bradwick as Violet’s younger admirer, Joe is suitably touching especially in their duet, Let Love Grow. Fun and humour are never far away in this show and the greatest conveyor is Vicky Brady as office martinet and Hart’s obsessive lovelorn admirer, Roz. She is absolutely hilarious in the role and her Heart to Hart number is an undoubted highlight, sure to bring the house down.
The ensemble work well together in their musical numbers with some telling cameos from most, in particular William Hurton as Violet’s son, Josh, Pete Etherington as colleague Bob and Rachael Roberts as the heavy drinking Margaret.
Already an established choreographer, Suzie Hand makes her debut as director and acquits herself admirably, injecting good pace into the production, getting some solid performances from her principals as well as choreographing lively ensemble numbers that keep everyone on their toes. Experienced musical director Sandra Tebbutt guides her singers well,achieving maximum vocal potential from all involved.
I saw this show at the final rehearsal stage and it struck me as being far more enjoyable than the original movie. There is abundant energy and wonderful joie-de- vivre about the whole production, which can only increase once it’s on stage and in front of an appreciative audience. Don’t miss the chance to get in on the fun, as you’re guaranteed a ‘great day at the office!’
Tickets - £17 for adults, £15 concessions (production is unsuitable for children under the age of 12). Call Melton Theatre box office on 01664 851111 or visit www.meltontheatre.co.uk