9 to 5 – the Musical, BODS at Bath Theatre Royal

WE are lucky in this area that from Cheltenham down to Plymouth and points East, there are local musical societies who, without the cushion of public funding, take on the challenge of presenting full-scale musicals in large professional theatres. Many of these productions are a match for, and sometimes superior to, the touring professional productions that play in the same theatres.

Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society is the latest to take up this challenge, bringing Tristan Carter’s production of the Dolly Parton-inspired musical 9 to 5 to the Theatre Royal in Bath. In the 15 years since the show first appeared on Broadway – and even more since the 1980 film from which it is taken was first screened – the feminist message of the script has grown stronger and stronger. It’s not surprising then that when Violet (Sabrina Messer), the rebellious leader of the bullied office staff, described her boss Franklin Hart Jnr (Pip Knowles) to her co-conspirators, Doralee (Hannah Graham) and the timid newly-divorced Judy (Kate Lodite,) as being a sexist, egotistical, lying, bigot, it was greeted by a spontaneous round of applause and no little degree of cheering from the appreciative audience.

As you can imagine, with music and lyrics composed and written by the flamboyant Dolly Parton, there was plenty of beef and dramatic content in the numbers. When Sabrina, Hannah and Kate were let loose on solos, with full backing from musical director James Finbow and his orchestra, they took no prisoners. The same can be said of Hart’s assistant Roz (Jane Knowles), so besotted with Franklin that his every wish is her command.

In comparison the men in the cast – Doralee’s loving husband Dwayne (Leo Horler), Judy’s ex, Dick (Ahad Khan), Violet’s son Josh (Fin Hancorn) and company president Mr Tinsworthy (Chris Born) – have to live off vocal and dramatic scraps. The one exception is office accountant and faithful would-be lover of Violet Joe (George Miles), providing an oasis of calm and sincerity amidst a sea of full-blooded delivery of dialogue and vocals.

Usually, after months of strenuous rehearsal, you can guarantee that all will be right on the first night. But on this occasion some first night errors were on view, in the staging, lighting, some of the ensemble work and costume changes, leading to late entries. Nothing so glaring as to stop the flow of this hard-hitting production, but enough to make you certain that things would go much smoother in the next and subsequent performances.

Like Roz’s rose-coloured view of the horrible Franklin Hart Jnr, none of those errors mattered in slightest to the first night audience, who laughed wholeheartedly at every piece of comedy and whooped and hollered in appreciation of every musical number, lifting the cast’s spirits as much as the production was obviously lifting theirs.


Photographs by Stewart McPherson

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