9 to 5 (Gillingham Dramatic Society)

9 to 5
Photo credit: Richard Lehmann

Originally a 1980 film from Colin Higgins and Patricia Resnick, 9 to 5 was adapted into a musical by Resnick with the help of Dolly Parton (one of the film’s stars) and opened on Broadway in 2009. Its run was incredibly limited, but the show’s appeal hasn’t dimmed; a production toured the UK in 2012, there have been recent London productions, and now Gillingham Dramatic Society have taken it on as their latest show. I was lucky enough to be invited along to their dress rehearsal to give you a preview of what you can expected from their short run.

Set in 1979, it tells the story of employees at Consolidated Industries, mostly women working as secretaries while the men take on management roles. Judy is new to the firm and having to stand on her own two feet for the first time as her husband has run off with his secretary, Doralee is married but the whole office suspects she’s having an affair with CEO Mr Hart, and Violet is a widow with a teenage son to support, holding out for an overdue promotion. All have something to prove but are constantly denied the opportunity to take full control of their own lives – they end up forced to take a crazy risk to save themselves, and to try and change things for the better…

9 to 5
Photo credit: Richard Lehmann

In its early stages you do wonder if it’s going to be quite a dated show, but by and large it sorts itself out; its overall aim is to show female empowerment and celebrate women’s worth, and I’d say it just about achieves this. Hart’s solo number, Here For You, sticks out given the ongoing revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein, as it’s basically him objectifying Doralee and hoping he can abuse his powerful position – the audience needs to know about this aspect of his character, of course, but it’s not the most comfortable moment. The story also takes a slightly bizarre turn towards the end of the first act, and it is a generally predictable ‘happy ever after’, but it does still have its moments.

There is great backing from a brilliant band, led by MD Owen McColgan; it could have been tempting to simply use a backing track rather than a full live band (including guitar, trumpet and woodwind), but by having the musicians there an extra bit of energy and vibrancy are injected into the show.

9 to 5
Photo credit: Richard Lehmann

The production also features a hard-working ensemble, ever on hand for group numbers to bring Amy Allen’s fantastic choreography (including some fun deskography in Around Here) to life. Of the supporting cast, Marianna Allen really stands out as alcoholic Margaret; she’s brilliantly funny, and brings some great little touches to her performance. Glenn Atkinson and Liz McSherry impress and revolt in equal measure as the lecherous Hart and his ardent, but unwanted, admirer Roz.

There is a strong leading trio in Jeni Boyns, Laura Dee and Claire Scholes, playing Violet, Doralee and Judy, respectively. All bring spectacular vocals to the table, belting out song after song – with a particular highlight being Shine Like The Sun, a group number which also gives them their own solo moments to bring the first act to a close. They work wonderfully together as a team, which brings a sense of authenticity to proceedings.

If you’re a musical theatre person, look no further. Rachel Ann Crane-Herbert’s ambitious production shows what am-dram societies are truly capable of, and has gathered together a talented team to make it possible. It’s a fun, frothy affair – and you’re bound to have the title song stuck in your head as you make your way out of the theatre!

9 to 5 runs at Central Theatre Chatham from 12-14 October 2017. Tickets are available online or from the box office.


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