Review: 9 to 5, Appeal Theatre Group, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, to July 16

Appeal Theatre Group stage the musical 9 to 5 at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Terry

Appeal Theatre Group stage the musical 9 to 5 at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Terry - Credit: Archant

Who knew working in an office could be so much fun? While not perfect, there is plenty to enjoy in this comedy about three women who embodied girl power long before the Spice Girls were even wannabes.

Appeal Theatre Group stage the musical 9 to 5 at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Terry

Appeal Theatre Group stage the musical 9 to 5 at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Terry - Credit: Archant

It’s 1979 and Doralee (Michelle Pountney-Langham), Violet (Jane Robinson) and Judy (Catherine Roberts) work for Consolidated Industries under - he wishes - sleazy boss Franklyn Hart (Darren Nunn). Their lot isn’t a happy one and one afternoon they fantasise over a joint what they’d like to do to him. When Violet accidentally adds a little something to Hart’s morning coffee, they end up taking him hostage in the hope of staying out of jail.

A fan of the 1980 movie, I was curious to see how the stage musical - which took Broadway by storm - would play out. The score and lyrics were written by Dolly Parton, who played Doralee; so you’re off to a great start.

I have to applaud Appeal for trying something new, the way they did with last year’s woefully underappreciated The Drowsy Chaperone. Last night’s opening performance deserved a larger turn-out for that reason alone.

Stars of the show - and rightly so - were Pountney-Langham, Robinson and Roberts. The chemistry between them fizzed, helping paper over some of the cracks caused by first night nerves.

Appeal Theatre Group stage the musical 9 to 5 at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Terry

Appeal Theatre Group stage the musical 9 to 5 at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Terry - Credit: Archant

Although, Cath Steel as Hart’s assistant Roz threatened to steal scenes she was in. Hart to Hart and 5 to 9 were great numbers.

The cast, for the most part, attacked their roles with vim and vigour. Director Jo Whelton balanced the comedy and underlying issues of equality and empowerment well and Suzie Lowe’s choreography made smart use of the space. The set, while simple, was also effective.

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It’s funny, with lots of acerbic one-liners and laugh out loud numbers.

The leads’ fantasies about how they’d handle Hart was wonderfully visualised - especially Violet’s - and acted. So was the hospital scene. There was even a topical Donald Trump gag at the end.

If I’m honest, the big numbers needed a little more polishing. You could see the nerves on some of the cast’s faces and they looked a little lost at times, notably during the opening routine. The vocals occasionally suffered and it was sometimes hard to hear them. Some of the scene changes could’ve been quicker too.

These are easily solved and overall there were more positives than negatives.

The show is raising money for Fresh Start - new beginnings, a charity that provides therapeutic service to child victims of child sexual abuse across Suffolk, Norfolk and North Essex.

Wayne Savage

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