‘9 to 5’ – Little Theatre Company – Palace Theatre, Southend

Based on the 20th Century Fox Pictures film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomin and Dolly Parton, the musical gives us the same story but with the wonderful Music and Lyrics from Dolly herself.
Opening the show with a personal statement to the audience and introducing the characters Dolly sets us up for an evening going back in time to the late seventies when the office was the male domain and the women ‘mere secretaries’ but at Consolidated Industries all is about to change….
The cast is led by three strong women, all well cast and who are equal in strength as the shows conspirators against male dominance.
Lianne Larthe as Violet Newstead is completely in control as the executive secretary with her eye on promotion. She has strength and charisma and delivers a very competent performance throughout giving great stability to the show. Alongside her are Louisa Strachan as Doralee and Eleanor Softly as Judy. Both these ladies ‘Shine like the Sun’ in their respective roles, Eleanor as the recently single Judy who is trying to find her way in the workplace, develops the character beautifully throughout the show from the shy and weepy to the strong and independent.  Sadly, I found the activity of Hart on stage during her number ‘Get and and Stay out’ extremely distracting and I felt it was a disservice to her wonderful performance of this highly emotional number.
Louisa Strachan as Doralee was just divine, every nuance was perfect with a real Dolly Parton feel to the character but with her own interpretation. She was captivating every time she came on stage.
The three ladies all delivered their own numbers beautifully but together they were simply outstanding.
Ian Benson as Franklin Hart gave a solid performance as the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot however, I still felt he could be more sleazy in his character but maybe this was because he is a modern man and just not used to the 1970”s ‘Life on Mars’ type of guy.  Playing against him as Roz his ever-loving administrative assistant was Stephanie Wilson. Her number Heart to Hart was great and showed us the real provocative side to the character. This was a real case where experience and talent came to the fore.
There were many other great characterisations from the cast in some of the minor roles and I have to despite what was a small cast size for a big all singing, all dancing show the company singing was top class along with a fabulous orchestra – which was probably one of the best I have heard recently.
The company coped extremely well with a large and cumbersome set but they never let it stop the flow of the show and the audience watching tonight enjoyed everything from start to finish. This is a “feel-good” show with uplifting music and a fun storyline and LTC delivered it in an engaging and exciting way.
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