REVIEW: 9 to 5 – The Musical, musical theatre students from the University of Chichester on tour, Theatre Royal Winchester.
This is the show that effectively launches a group of Chichester University final-year musical-theatre students out into the big wide world.
And on the basis of the last night of their tour, we can safely say they are ready – a group of young performers who are clearly going to gobble up all the challenges their chosen career is going to throw at them.
Yes, they are going into a ferociously competitive industry, but Sunday night’s performance was perfect proof that they’ve got what it takes.
9 To 5 – The Musical comes with important messages, of course, but above all it needs to be fun – and that’s where the students really scored.
I have seen dozens of professional productions with half the spirit the students produced. But it wasn’t just spirit. It was style as well. Oodles of it, backed up by skill and hard work – and a determination to succeed which was fully realised.
9 To 5 is the tale of three women office workers who are finally pushed to breaking point by their lying, cheating, egotistical, bigoted boss – three women who take the most extraordinary revenge in a bid to make life better for everyone, not least themselves.
Sophie Spencer as gang leader Violet Newstead was perhaps the stand-out performer, a complete stage natural with real presence and a beautiful voice. Jasmine Townley mixed comedy and poignancy hugely effectively in the Dolly Parton role of Doralee. Her Backwards Barbie was superbly done.
But maybe it was Ali Shepherd, completing the trio as Judy, who delivered the night’s vocal highlight with Get Out And Stay Out, a bring-the-house-down performance packed with power, passion and all the emotional oomph you could wish for.
Together, they were a formidable threesome. Franklin Hart Jr, their odious boss, didn’t stand a chance – and nor did he deserve one.
But in show terms, Jack Rowell was every bit their equal, giving a fine performance as the CEO from hell.
Joshua Brown tugged at the heartstrings as hopelessly-devoted Joe, just desperate to be given a chance; and Jessica Hunt nicely hinted at all the vulnerabilities of the outwardly-awful Roz Keith.
Behind them and around them, a skilful ensemble was giving it their all. Watch anyone of them and no one was coasting. Everyone was in the moment, expressive and on song.
Put it all together, and the result was a night which delivered on the one thing that companies forget at their peril. Above all, we, the audience, want to be entertained – and we were richly so on Sunday night.
Maybe we were watching the benefits of all the tour dates which had preceded it. We were watching a cast which had bonded tightly, a cast which was working with each other and for each other.
The students were involved in every aspect of the show, on stage and behind the scenes. The result was a huge credit to everyone. The choreography was faultless; the music was superb; head of musical theatre Karen Howard, the show’s director, should be thrilled with the result.
And to think the students were being assessed on it all as a big part of their degrees.
Well, if the tutors want to ask the audience, I am pretty sure we’ll all happily give them first-class honours.
Violet Newstead - Sophie Spencer
Doralee Rhodes - Jasmine Townley
Judy Bernly - Ali Shepherd
Franklin Hart Jr - Jack Rowell
Roz Keith - Jessica Hunt
Joe - Joshua Brown
Kathy - Lauren Bullock
Maria - Olivia Blackwell
Margaret - Carys Thomson
Josh - Ben Armstrong
Mr Tinsworthy - Liam Asplen
Dwayne - Angus Hughes
Bob, Dick, Detective - James Molyneux-Watson
Missy & Doctor - Emma Vincent
Candy Striper - Hannah Sowerby
Ensemble Dancer - Steph Baron
Ensemble Dancer - Benjamin Garratt
Direction - Karen Howard
Music Direction - Brady Mould
Choreography - Damien Delaney
Design - Ryan Dawson-Laight
Lighting Design - Andrew Bruce
Sound Design - Pete Hall