Three women — an overworked office manager, a jilted wife, and an objectified secretary — conspire to depose their smarmy boss and begin making woman-friendly changes in the workplace. Based on the 1980 hit movie made famous by Dolly Parton this show has had limited runs in the West End and on Broadway.
The Little Theatre Company (LTC) with an impressive history of performing quality productions at the Palace Theatre Southend, totally surpass the word ‘amateur’, with an impressive show leaving you feeling good and thoroughly entertained.
From the opening number of the toe-tapping ‘9 to 5’, the trio of leading ladies supported by an impressive ensemble use their vocal and acting skills to portray each characters journey of transformation.
Lianne Larthe as the promotion deprived single mum Violet, acts her heart out mixing serious drama with comedic moments to perfection. Her american accent is flawless and she is completely believable in her role. Louisa Strachan as Doralee is the fiesty cowgirl with sex appeal and bite, fighting off the advances from her politically inappropriate boss and changing the opinion of her fellow workers. Louisa’s powerhouse voice is absolutely stunning. If I was a casting director for Rock of Ages or We Will Rock You, Louisa would be top of my casting list. The last of the trio, Eleanor Softly plays Judy (or is it Julie? – joke!), the cheated wife swapped for a younger girl who is new in the office and eventually finds her confidence. It is impressive to see Judy’s character gain strength as the story progresses. Eleanor’s voice is fantastic which is so evident in her solo number Get Out and Stay Out – a show stopping moment!
This is very much a musical where the female characters stand out and excel but Mr Hart, played by Ian Benson, must have enjoyed perfecting his role as the politically incorrect, bigoted, womanising office boss (squint your eyes and he looks a bit like George Clooney without the charm) because he plays it so well. Ian pushes his character to the limit without being overly distasteful or uncomfortable to watch. His cheeky ‘carry-on’ management style is appropriate for the era. Not all of Mr Hart’s advances are unwelcomed. Roz played by the excellent Stephanie Wilson is desperate to grab his affections which adds a comical narrative throughout the show and a rather inventive dance routine involving Rox clones.
Whilst the musical numbers are somewhat lightweight, the orchestra directed by Clare Penfold play the score brilliantly with a country and western twang. The audio mix for the solo and ensemble numbers are perfectly balanced and at a decent volume to suppress any rustling sweet papers which is music to my ears.
It is rare that members of the ensemble are mentioned in reviews but I do need to give praise to Hannah Allwright whose smiley face and enthusiasm stood out right from the very beginning.
The hardworking stage crew did their best to manage the over ambitious stage set which on occasions caused unnecessary distractions. The sliding frames for the office walls and the lift kept moving during scenes and it didn’t make sense for the lift to slide to one side to allow a character to walk into the scene. Stage crew came on the stage under full lighting behind actors in key moments which was off-putting, and in one instance a desk failed to arrive. Perhaps a slightly less complex set would have given a better overall feel of continuity. With that said some of the vintage props looked wonderful and the lighting was effective. The car scene (don’t want to give away any spoilers) was under used and a missed opportunity for a perfect magical illusion involving Mr Hart going from the car to the bed – this would have looked so good.
The use of a video screen with Dolly Parton was a nice touch but in my opinion was unnecessary. This production had its own star quality on stage and the hardworking cast and crew is all that is needed to deliver this show. By the end you have to remind yourself this is an amateur production. A massive congratulations to the Little Theatre Company for a Big Theatre Production.
Grab yourself a seat before the short run ends this weekend.