top of page
Screenshot 2023-09-14 105235_edited.jpg

Dolly Parton’s Eighties musical 9 to 5 requires three strong differentiated women to play Violet, Judy and Doralee who drive the story and the best songs and MAOS are fortunate to have three such actresses to lead their return to the stage post Covid. They bring a delightful energy and great range of emotions to their characters with fine contrasting voices. 

The conversion of the deconsecrated church which is now the Wycombe Arts Centre into a musical theatre venue is a significant endeavour with a raised platform for the 12-piece band at rear of stage set, a full lighting rig and sound system and raised towers for the sound desk and follow spots and the society successfully created an effective stage space and well-balanced sound mix. The use of the original pulpit was cleverly incorporated in the scenes. 

The band produced a rich sound with a large brass section that filled the venue with music that naturally got the audience feet tapping and sent them home humming the tunes with a smile on their face. 

The actual stage was backed by some plain white flats which needed either projected images or varied lighting to set the scenes more effectively. The reliance on half a dozen blocks on casters to act as stage furniture to set scenes facilitated quick scene changes although also required an efficient cast to set practical props which at times looked a bit chaotic in the half light. The setting and costumes did not create a strong eighties vibe although the sentiment of the show is clearly set in that decade but these points did not detract from the overall quality of the singing and performances of the leading characters. 


The characters of the three co-workers at the centre of the story were very well established by their costume choices, hair, and accents, creating distinctive personalities with layers of emotions and responses. Together there were strong and individually they showed they could hold their own centre stage. 


Lucy Newell as the matriarchal authority figure, Violet,  leading the ladies was very polished and in control with good diction and drew out the contrast between her relationship with her son Josh to that with her co-workers. She was particularly strong and convincing in “One of the Boys” strutting across the stage and then again in a lovely contrast still and quiet in “Let love grow” showing a more tender side slowly. 

Annie Watt as the larger than life, Dolly Parton character, Doralee provided a strong wilder character with a well maintained southern American accent and a dominant country and western vibe. It was a very well executed characterisation at its best in the wonderful “Backyard Barbie” giving her a fearless can-do attitude to take on the world! 

Helen Brown’s character Judy is given even more opportunity to show off  her acting skills as she blossoms and lets her hair down from timid hopeless new secretary into a fearless champion of women’s rights. She created a lovely rounded personality with excellent comic touches as when lolling over the bean bags and also revealing plenty of emotional connections. Her impassioned delivery of the anthem “Get out and stay out” was a show highlight. 

What really impressed  was when the three came together as in “Shine like the sun” and “Change it” where they worked so well together and with little glances at each other which made them feel like a team. 

Sally Williamson in the cameo role of Roz seemed to relish the brilliant transformation from loyal up tight assistant into vampish sultry temptress and absolutely nailed the wonderful “Heart to Hart” routine which was then contrasted well in the delivery of the longing simmering passion of “5 to 9”. It was fine performance with a fine voice. 

Against four so well written female characters with their highly memorable songs, the male characters seem a little one dimensional with less scope to show a range of emotions and relationships so the actors have less to work with.


Nick Blanks as Franklin Hart JR had the unenviable task of spending half the show in his underpants but created a seedy, creepy American (a touch of Donald Trump with his floppy hair!) whose downfall we all root for! The part can be played with a little more cheeky charm to soften our reaction but in this production we can all sense that he is in no way “Here for you” which is his best moment in the show . I liked the use of the pulpit during this number.  

Charlie Collier as Joe Wright provided some love interest and successfully created the character of the anxious nervous office junior who is still in his thirties. We did get a sense that they “let the love grow” in their second half duet and it would have been good to see him relax a little as he won her over.


Dan Pritchard filled the dual roles of Dwayne and Dick and effectively distinguished between the two men with simple costume changes and the way he carried himself. It was a shame his personal mic failed so we could not hear all his words clearly. He handled the reaction to Judy in “Get out and stay out” well. 

Charles Padley had a long wait for his appearance as Tinsworthy but strode the stage with confidence, a clear voice and a certain charm that made a good contrast to the other male characters.  

The other two male written characters were played by Willow Randall as the wayward son Josh and Shirley Jenkins-Pandya as the Detective, both filling the roles well in important scenes in Violet’s journey to the top! 

The strong large Ensemble worked hard to set the scenes and added volume to the big musical numbers with some getting short moments centre stage. Sarah- Jane Cosgrove grabbed her moments as the drunken sot Margaret staggering convincingly around the stage in Act 1 and then appearing in good contrast as the rehabilitated young lady in Act 2 with a happy smile of recovery. Jacqui Pirie looked every bit the rich wife abandoned by Franklin, Missy and glad to escape his tyranny.  Helen Denham as Kathy , Katie Newell as Maria, Caoimhe Sweeney as the Doctor, and Christine Ibbott as Candy Striper all spoke their lines clearly and effectively in their short scenes. The rest of the Ensemble, Clare Bond , Melanie Brown, Samantha Cleaver, Amanda Emmanuel Jackson, Anna Hughes, Sue Jackson-Cook, Liz Keens and Jessica Muston all worked together as office workers, cowgirls and bunnies as well as resetting the scenes. 

There were some lovely moments in the Ensemble work as in the posed freezes in the commuting sequence and in the office in “Around here”  as well as the use of the red gloves in “One of the boys” that created memorable pictures on stage. However with so many on stage the movement as an Ensemble occasionally looked a little untidy and could have been more precise. They worked better in smaller groups as in the Bunnies in “Potion Notion” and “Joy to the girls” or as dancers in “Dance of Death” or cowgirls in “Cowgirls revenge” where there was more space to set out the choreography. 


John Asher as Director created a very good staging and a slick show which drew out the different female characters very well. He used the pulpit and forestage well and the large, coloured blocks on casters offered a quick way of changing scene. I particularly liked their use in “change it” to offer a different variation in heights on stage. They did require quite a lot of props setting especially for later scenes. The use of the pulpit was excellent creating appropriate variation in the setting, even doubling up amusingly as a urinal! I liked the way the scene smoking on bean bags was set and flowed into the three fantasy songs bringing out the different thoughts of the three ladies and executed with wit and a comic touch. 

The society is very lucky to have such a large band under the direction of Dan Szelazek and it was great to see them on the raised platform rather than hidden away. They created a powerful rich sound with good contrast between the Country and Western style songs that Dolly Parton is famous for and a more powerful rock score. The music is infectious with its fun upbeat tunes and occasionally more gentle serenades.  

Samantha Cleaver’s choreography was very good offering plenty of variation and some enjoyable touches. As noted above I particularly enjoyed the smaller groupings in the fantasy sequences where there was the space to show off the choreography better. The opening of Act 2 with “One of the boys” was a good idea in red gloves and red ties and with precision could have been wonderful. It was distracting that some ties were different lengths, and the Ensemble were not arranged in uniform heights or able to use different levels of the stage, so the good choreography looked a little jumbled and busy at times with “traffic flow issues”. There was a joyous celebratory feel to the finale which brought the show to a great conclusion. 

The technical team led by Stage Manager, Stewart Mason , Lighting Designer Peter Sims and Sound Designer Jack Comerford have done a remarkable job in creating the staging of this venue from scratch. The sound was well balanced and the vocals all clear (with the exception of the personal mic failure).There were good sound effects which added to the fantasy sequences. The Lighting was effective with the blue on the band and mainly orange washes over the stage space. I felt something could have been done to light the white back wall more interestingly and early on some faces on forestage were in darkness although generally there was some good work by the follow spots to pick out the leads. Though when you looked around the venue still had the look of an old church, the team successfully transformed it into a very effective musical theatre stage to showcase the talented singers. There were a lot of props sourced by Sally Dickson and Ruth Frost to set the office scenes effectively although there seemed to be an odd collection of old typewriters in the office and Franklin’s home could have been more effectively dressed.  

The programme designed by Lucy Newell was of high quality with a strong front cover, good clear images and effective black on yellow lettering with blue titles.  

There was a warm welcome from Producer/Front of House manager Katy Mitchell and the team, and the separate bar and toilet block seemed to work satisfactorily. Effort had been made to create a foyer space with pictures and staff that created the feel of welcoming theatre. I enjoyed my first visit to the venue and to see this society and look forward to seeing what these talented ladies do next! 

Thank you 



Nick Humby - NODA Representative - London Region - District 14 

bottom of page