Interview: 9 to 5 players from South Staffs Musical Theatre Company talk ahead of Wolverhampton Grand Theatre run

Get those heels on and make your hair tall and proud – it’s time to do it like Dolly.

Interview: 9 to 5 players from South Staffs Musical Theatre Company talk ahead of Wolverhampton Grand Theatre run

Plotting to get even with the boss

Celebrating 80 years of musical theatre in the West Midlands, South Staffs Musical Theatre Company is proud to present 9 to 5 the Musical at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tuesday until October 15.

A huge Broadway and UK hit, the show features Dolly Parton’s Oscar, Tony and Grammy Award-nominated score, including Backwoods Barbie, Change It, Shine like the Sun, I Just Might and, of course, her best-loved smash hit, 9 to 5.

Naturally, the show is based on the popular 1980 comedy movie of the same name, which heralded Dolly Parton’s first film role, as well as appearing on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Funniest Movies. It starred Dolly, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, with Burt Reynolds in the role of Mr Hart.

Pushed to boiling point by the antics of the, and I quote, ‘sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ they call their boss, three female co-workers, Doralee Rhodes, Violet Newstead and Judy Bernly, concoct a plan to get even with him. 

In an hilarious turn of events, the girls live out their wildest fantasies to give Franklin Hart the boot. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

While Hart remains ‘otherwise engaged’ (we won’t tell you how because that would spoilt the plot) the girls give their workplace a dream makeover and completely take control of the company which has kept them down, despite the best efforts of Mr Hart’s faithful, frumpy, love-struck assistant, Roz.

Well, that’s it in a nutshell, but watch out for a host of quirky characters and sub-plots along the way.

South Staffs Musical Theatre Company is lucky enough to be one of the first amateur groups to present 9 to 5 the Musical in the West Midlands. I asked the leading man, Simon McGee, why he was attracted to the role of Franklin Hart Jr and what his thoughts were on the show generally. “9 to 5 is very different from any of the traditional musical theatre productions we have previously presented,” he explained. “Technically it is a complex show but the company and, in particular our team of back stage staff, have worked extremely hard.

 “That’s what I love about South Staffs,” he said. “Everyone is a team player and whether you have a leading role or whether you are working back stage, front of house or appearing in the ensemble, we all muck in together to make shows are of the highest standard.

“We really enjoy performing at Wolverhampton Grand and, following the theatre’s makeover, we consider ourselves very lucky to be the first amateur group to perform there following the refurbishment.

“I also have a new-found respect for Dolly Parton. Her music is so intricate and diverse that everyone has really had their work cut out learning the complex harmonies and very wordy tunes.

“Dolly composed the title song using her acrylic fingernails believe it or not, which she thought sounded like a typewriter when she rubbed them together. We all recognise that distinctive sound on the opening of the Grammy award-winning hit single by now,” he added.

There are three very talented actresses taking the lead female roles. Doralee will be portrayed by Lexie Bennett, an office worker from Gornal who really does work 9 to 5; Violet is Maria Shee, a deputy headteacher from Penn and Judy is played by Abbie Rai, a student from Willenhall. There is also Natasha Bennett, an outstanding vocalist and comedy actress in the role of Roz, Mr Hart’s faithful secretary.

“I love my character. He is a dream role for any male performer,” laughed Simon. “The comedy is hilarious and my scenes with Doralee in particular have left Lexie and I in tears during rehearsal,” he continued.

Opening number rehearsals under way
Opening number rehearsals under way

“Hart does, of course, get his comeuppance in the end, though.”

The company has had great fun sourcing vintage 1979 clothing for the show, too, and researching hairdos and make-up with their wardrobe master, Adam Starr.

Keen to keep everything as authentic as possible, there have been many visits to charity shops and trawling of ebay to locate the perfect clobber.

Musical director, Rob Murray, has provided a superb orchestra for the show.

South Staffs Musical Theatre Company, like most amateur theatre groups, is very much a family affair, with many of the adult members now welcoming their partners and older offspring into the group.

Director, Alf Rai, is surrounded by his family, with his wife Nikki playing the role of Margaret, his daughter Abbie appearing as Judy and his other daughter Megan taking part as a dancer.

Similarly, Lexie and Natasha Bennett are sisters and husband-and-wife teams, Roger and Anne Stokes and David and Kristina Ball, are also taking part.

Lisa Farmer and her daughter Ellie will appear in the dancers and Alastair – the son of this very writer – is also coming home from university for the week to appear alongside his old mother in the ensemble.

Amateur theatre is a great hobby for keeping families together.

In the autumn of 2017, South Staffs will also be presenting the Monty Python mayhem and madness musical, Spamalot, which they hope will attract both regular audience members and some new ones, too.

But for now, 9 to 5 the Musical is a definite for the ladies, but all you gents out there don’t be put off as this is pure comedy genius.

And watch out for a very special personal appearance by Dolly herself in the show. 

For tickets – priced from £10.50 to £20 – call Wolverhampton Grand Theatre box office on 01902 429212 or visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk 

By Alison Norton

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