REVIEW: Burgess Hill actors shine in Dolly Parton’s hilarious musical

Debbie Mclean, Michelle Bryant, Bill Kirwan and Jennifer Mclean
Debbie Mclean, Michelle Bryant, Bill Kirwan and Jennifer Mclean
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9 to 5 – The Musical, Burgess Hill Musical Theatre Society, Martlets Hall, Burgess Hill, November 2-5

Its rare for me to watch a show I haven’t seen before, so it was with great anticipation that I turned up at the Martlets Hall to watch Burgess Hill Musical Theatre Society perform 9 to 5 – The Musical.

This show, with book by Patricia Resnick and music and lyrics written by Dolly Parton, promised good things and I am very pleased to say I was not disappointed.

Based on the 1980 hit movie set in the late 1970s, this hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era is outrageous, thought-provoking and even a little romantic.

Pushed to the boiling point, three female co-workers concoct a plan to get even with the sexist, egotistical, lying bigot they call their boss.

Director Bex Bennett brought out some excellent performances from both experienced and relatively new actors alike, but in particular her use of the chorus was what gave this production depth. So often the ensemble appears for no reason to just stand and sing. Not here; every time they appeared you could see why and it always made sense.

Add to that the great choreography of Janis Mclean and a small but very together band under the talented musical director Ian White and we were onto a winner.

The Martlets is not the biggest of stages, yet the simple and clever set made the most of what was available and helped make the show move along swiftly. This was supplemented by the excellent use of projections adding in a backdrop to lift the visual effect of each scene.

Even Dolly herself made an appearance via the screen. Sound and lighting too, the odd minor glitch aside, were very good.

So on to the cast. The male parts were not the largest but the three main characters were all well delivered by BHMTS stalwarts.

Bill Kirwan was a powerful Mr Hart with an all-too believable character. Paul Bryant as the lovesick accountant and Rob Thurgood as Doralee’s husband both turned in quality performances.

However, the real stars of the show were the girls.

Head of the pack was Michelle Bryant as Violet, the real brains of the office yet always overlooked as she explains in her powerful rendition of ‘One of the Boys’. As always, she delivered a strong performance providing the backbone of the story line.

Debbie Mclean also was in good form, always a pleasure to watch and delivered a lovely sense of innocence as the new girl Judy.

But it was the two first time leads that took the plaudits.

As if taking the Dolly Parton role (Doralee) wasn’t a big enough challenge, doing it as your first major lead must be daunting. Jenifer Mclean not only rose to the challenge but soared above it. Her accent remained constant, her acting was believable and she owned her solo songs. This was her first lead role but is certainly not going to be the last.

Last but certainly not least was Dawn Holland as Roz, the PA with a crush on the boss. Comedy, as they say, is down to the timing and Dawn has it in spades. This was a joy of a performance, never stepping out of character and captivating the audience with her delightful rendition of ‘Heart to Hart’.

However, what really made this show was the whole balance of the piece.

No part, dance, song or staging overshadowed anything else, and for that the final praise must go to the direction team as a whole.

This came across as a collaboration, with the music supporting the action supporting the story, kept swiftly moving along and carrying the audience with it.

In short, its was simply a very enjoyable night out.

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