9 to 5 The Musical review: Barn Theatre in Southwick comes alive with dynamic SO Musical Theatre production

Lea Spells as Doralee, centre, with Sharon Starr as Judy, left, and Stephanie Prince as Violet, right
Lea Spells as Doralee, centre, with Sharon Starr as Judy, left, and Stephanie Prince as Violet, right

Think 9 to 5 and you think Dolly Parton – the two go hand in hand, so it is great to see the country music icon introduce the musical at the Barn Theatre in Southwick.

SO Musical Theatre brings a dynamic version of the revived musical to the stage and it was much enjoyed by the packed, enthusiastic audience last night.

Lea Spells is Doralee, the part played by Dolly in the 1980 film, and she is as punchy and strong as the energetic star.

She powers out her vocals and really stands out on stage, in more ways than one.

Sharon Starr plays Judy, the office newbee, and is equally strong in her vocals. She really has her moment with her number Get Out and Stay Out in the second half, when the elaborate scenery is stripped right back.

Stephanie Price, who leads the cast in the role of Violet, is also at her best in the second half, especially in the spectacular dance number One of the Boys, which includes a very quick change into a stunning white trouser suit.

The first half is a bit of a contrast, much longer and packed with set changes, furniture and props.

The opening sequence is filled with energy, as Violet, Doralee, Dwayne, Judy and the ensemble deliver the titular number.

The office set is impressive, filled with desks, filing cabinets and typewriters, and the large ensemble bustles around the space smoothly.

I enjoyed Sam Clements’ portrayal of Roz and her racy dance number Heart to Hart was clearly loved by last night’s audience but for me, that one goes a bit too far.

There is a lovely performance from Sally Diver as the office lush Margaret, with her badly-buttoned cardigan and staggering walk.

This musical is mainly about the women but David Villiers, of course, has an important part to play as the lazy, lying boss Franklin Hart.

He plays it for laughs rather than being demonic and it really works, complemented by his lovely, rich vocals. He certainly milks it at interval time, calling for a drink while strung up in the air!

There is a full band of 12 musicians, who were able to applaud via video link at the end, and four pit singers, notable for backing Doralee in her number Backwoods Barbie.

The performance as a whole was impressive and it was nice to see such a big musical at the Barn. There was no doubting the enthusiasm from the audience, which was lovely to see.

SO Musical Theatre presents 9 to 5 The Musical at the Barn Theatre in Southwick tonight and tomorrow night at 7.30pm. Visit www.southwickopera.co.uk or telephone the box office on 01273 597094