Alex serves a Christmas cracker

Secretary power: Jackie Clune as Violet Newstead, Amy Lennox as Doralee Rhodes and Natalie Casey as Judy Bernly. Pictures: Phil Hitchman 

9 to 5 – The Musical

The New Alexandra Theatre

*****

THE resurgent Alex, given a new lease of life by Ambassador Theatre Group, has come up trumps with a Christmas cracker of a musical which is slick and has all the glitz and pazzaz of a Broadway show, and, most of all, it is entertaining and packed full of fun.

So if you are looking for an alternative, or even an addition to a trip to the panto over the festive period then look no further. And don't be afraid you won't understand the musical if you never saw the film. This is a new show which, although based on the storyline of the film, is a high quality musical in its own right, up there on merit with the best of them.  

Directed and choreographed by Pittsburgh-born Broadway big-hitter Jeff Calhoun, this is a show that just oozes class from the big opening number, 9 to 5, to the rousing finale of . . . . er . . . 9 to 5.

Not that there aren't plenty of songs and big numbers in between. Dolly Parton is a much underrated songwriter with many lyrics which would stand alone as poetry. The show includes 13 songs, new  as well as old favourites  from the film of the same name, with every style from country to showtunes.

Judy, played by Natalie Casey, who gives us the sad and defiant balled of lost love Get Out and Stay Out

One of the highlights was Backwoods Barbie from Amy Lennox who plays Doralee, the part played by Parton in the film. Lennox, who has a lovely soft Scottish accent offstage, manages a convincing Tennessee country girl accent onstage and showed a fine voice in Parton's bittersweet ballad – a song that can hold it's own in any company.

Doralee has had enough of dealing with her lecherous boss, Franklyn J Hart, who lies to everyone he is sleeping with her, while Violet, who runs the office, played by comedy star turned musical theatre star Jackie Clune, has had her own run ins with Hart, particularly when he passes her over for promotion for a top job because she is a woman.

Then there is Judy, the newbie, played by Natalie Casey, who has no office experience, is in a messy divorce, and is picked on unmercifully by Hart who was probably a founder member of the society of male chauvinist pigs – although remember this is 1979, the film came out in 1980, when equality for women was as alien as say, mobile phones.

So when our three scorned women get their chance to wreak vengeance . . . hell and fury come to mind with Hart left sort of hanging around waiting for the outcome.

The three gel together well and don't waste a line, particularly if there is a laugh to be had in a performance which is a joy to watch.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or at least the office, the only person at Consolidated who actually likes Hart is his personal assistant-come-lapdog Roz, played beautifully by Bonnie Langford who is so desperately in love with her boss, as well as sending out memos about memos.

She has another bittersweet ballad in 5 to 9 about unrequited love as well as the raunchy Hart to Hart – all brass and basque.

A fine performance from Jackie Clune as Violet who had her moment in song with the gentle love song Let Love Grow with her suitor Joe, played by Mark Willshire

Hart is one of the boys, 1979 style, when women in the workplace were there for decoration or carry out the more mundane tasks. Their job was to either get coffee or take dictation or, with a little persuasion, provide services not exactly covered in the company benefits plan, and Ben Richards has him down to a tee. It is all rather tongue-in-cheek and Hart is never allowed to get too far above his station, whenever he tries his chair collapses which doesn't help.

There is good support to from the office lush Margaret, played by Lori Haley Fox, and Mr Tinsworthy, played by Marlon Moore, the big, big boss who is a dead ringer for Col Saunders and his performance was finger lickin' good – come on, it is panto season. And then there was Joe, the good guy, played by Mark Willshire who tries all show to get Violet to go oiut with him. A marriage in the making.

We even see Dolly herself on a video screen setting the scene and then telling us what happens to everyone at the end.

The ensemble, including Hart's mates the boy's club, are well drilled in some classy dance numbers and even do a splendid job in scene shifting in a cleverly designed set by Kenneth Foy that can be office, corridor, hospital, lift, Hart's office or his mansion just ny a few shoves and pushes with no break in the action.

Lighting, by Ken Billington is also excellent and praise must go to Gareth Owen the sound designer and the Alex sound crew for exceptional sound quality.

And still on sound  the eight piece band are superb whether belting out blousy brass or sliding into soft, country ballad. Put all the elements together and you have a lively show with sad bits and joyous bits and a feel-good factor big enough to carry you through at least to the next payday.  To 05-01-13.

Roger Clarke 

 

And on the second shift . . .

HOW the ladies in the audience love this rousing Dolly Parton musical as three female office workers turn the table on their sexist, bullying male boss and even make the company more efficient in he process.

A group of women fans of the show sitting a couple of rows behind me in the stalls were singing along from the word go and at times seemed just a shade ahead of the action.

Franklyn J Hart, played by Ben Richards, who sees having played football with the guys as a prerequisite of management . . .

But it's easy to understand why as the cast belt out a string of lively songs, and at the finale on Press night hardly anyone was still seated for the stunning hit number, 9 to 5.

Filling the role of Doralee Rhodes, made famous by Dolly in the film, busty blonde Amy Lennox is a joy, fighting off the attentions of lecherous boss Franklyn J. Hart (Ben Richards) and earning howls of support from the customers when, pretending to point a gun at his groin, threatens: "I'll turn you from a rooster to a hen".

A terrific performance, too, from Bonnie Langford as the shy, plain office worker Roz Keith who has the hots for the boss and suddenly strips to undies, stockings and suspenders to show another side to her personality.

 Jackie Clune is excellent as Violet Newstead, the secretary who leads the revolt, with the help of Doralee and Judy Bernley (Natalie Casey), and there is some sparkling choreography delivered by the cast who even act as scene shifters. To 05.01.13

Paul Marston 

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