9 to 5 The Musical ~ Upstairs at the Gatehouse

9 to 5 The Musical stays at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until Saturday 30 September 2017 – book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Star rating: *****

9 to 5 the musical is a show I am extremely familiar with, I always feel that it’s the ultimate feel-good show and extraordinarily empowering to women in a tongue in cheek way! No wonder, really, given that it’s essentially a Dolly Parton show. Indeed 9 to 5 is surely the track that most people associate with Ms Parton.

9 to 5 the musical is based on the popular film and features an uplifting selection of musical theatre numbers, an excellent showcase for the actresses taking the lead roles. This particular production of the show has been produced and directed by Joe Hodges and it is without doubt the best incarnation I have seen. Although the space at the theatre is limited, the best use has been made of it with a set which blends into the background, allowing the performers to lead the action. Chris Whittaker’s choreography is slick, engaging, eye-catching, doesn’t shy away from technical splendour and works brilliantly in the space.

The story revolves around three ladies who work for Consolidate, from 9 to 5! Violet (Pippa Winslow), a widowed single mum who’s ambition is to be CEO of the company, Doralee (Louise Olley), glamorous ‘dolly bird’ who is a ‘Backwoods Barbie’ and wholly misunderstood and Judy (Amanda Coutts), a divorcee-to-be who has never been employed before. Their boss, Mr Hart (Leo Sene) is a chauvinist and egotist of the highest order, he’s dismissive of Violet, rude to Judy and regularly trying it on with Doralee, even though she’s happily married. Add into the mix, Roz (Samantha Giffard) who worships the ground that the boss walks on, and sneaks around to over-hear conversations and snitch on her colleagues. When a Marijuana-induced daydream of Violet’s almost comes to fruition courtesy of rat poison versus sweetener, the three women find themselves in an unbelievable situation, with their boss held hostage and they ship Roz off to France for good measure.

Leo Sene is superbly creepy, snivelling and easy to despise – he makes the character his own and has powerful vocal ability. Amanda Coutts is perfectly cast as Judy, perpetual worrier, quoting trivia when she’s nervous and Coutts has an incredible solo in act two – “Get Out, Stay Out” which she almost spits at her ex husband, what a performance de force! Louise Olley as Doralee puts in the right balance of Dolly Parton (who played Doralee in the film) and her own spin on the character. She’s sweet with an edge and “Backwoods Barbie” is one of the highlights of the show, such a beautiful musical number which plays to Olley’s many strengths. Pippa Winslow as Violet is a match made in musical theatre heaven. Not only does Winslow sing and dance (en pointe, too!) to an outstanding, show-stealing standard – she gives the character substance and appropriately underplays her part at times. The trio of ladies have a believable on-stage chemistry which moves the show along fluidly. Samantha Giffard must also be commended on an excellent comedy performance as Roz, not too over the top but just enough manic going on to cause her to stand out for all of the right reasons.

Miss this show at your peril, watching it on a small-scale will alter your perception of the story, the intricacies are laid bare and a stronger, tighter ensemble you will be hard-pushed to find. It’s a feel-good master-piece and I would gladly watch it over and over again.

Spotlight On… Star of 9 to 5 The Musical, Amanda Coutts

9 to 5 will burst onto the scene at Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, London from 30 August to 1 October 2017, book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Read all about it here: 9 to 5

Amanda Coutts is playing the role of Judy in the show and she told Break A Leg all about the character and what her personal highlights are. 

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Amanda – Tell me about 9 To 5 and your character.

9 to 5 The Musical is based on the 1980 classic movie 9 to 5 which starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. It is set in the late 1970’s and is a hilarious story of friendship and revenge. It follows the same story line of three women (Violet, Judy and Doralee) taking control of their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot boss and how the three women gave their workplace a dream makeover to have some Girl Power in a male dominant world. All the music and lyrics are by Dolly Parton who also created the original theme tune 9 to 5 for the film.

I play the role of Judy Bernly originally played by Jane Fonda in the film. Judy is a recently divorced house wife. She is forced to find work after her husband Dick left her for his 19 year old secretary. She gets a secretarial job working 9 to 5 at Consolidated. She has never worked in an office before and she is a complete, emotional wreck. Eventually she becomes good friends with Violet Newstead and Doralee Rhodes and gets more confident as the show goes on. By the end of the show she turns into a strong, independent, single women.

How familiar were you with the show?

I had never seen the musical before but I have seen the film so many times. I absolutely love Dolly Parton and loved the film. It’s such a fun show and the songs are fabulous.

Describe a typical rehearsal….

A typical rehearsal always starts with a vocal and physical warmup. Then we either have a vocal call or dance call cleaning up harmonies and choreography. Then onto Scene Work. There’s always lots of hard work involved but lots of fun and laughter too. We all get on so well.

What is your favourite musical number in the show? Have you got a favourite scene yet? Or a personal highlight?

I have 2 favourite musical numbers in the show. Dance of Death and Shine Like The Sun. I love Dance of Death because I get to dance a bit and its hilarious. Shine Like The Sun is just such a feel good number to sing as a whole company.

My favourite Scene is when the three women capture Hart. Its so much fun and finally we get our revenge.

My personal highlight has to be getting to sing Get Out and Stay Out when Judy finally realises that she doesn’t need her ex husband anymore and she is doing just fine on her own. Its also the most challenging song to sing and I love a good challenge.

What can the audience expect from the musical?

You can expect a show full of laughs with great songs and a cracking storyline. The music and choreography is amazing and we have a fabulous cast.

Why should everybody buy a ticket to come and see it?

If you love the movie you’ll love the musical. But even if you haven’t seen the film you will still really enjoy it. If you fancy a good night out then you will certainly get one watching 9 to 5.

Its a story of friendship, revenge with a little romance and is completely outrageous. The songs will have you tapping and singing along throughout the show. It’s such a feel good show with a lot of heart and will leave a huge smile on your face. 

Thanks so much, Amanda – a great interview and I’m all the more excited to see the show now!



Spotlight On… Star of 9 to 5 The Musical, Samantha Giffard

9 to 5 will burst onto the scene at Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, London from 30 August to 1 October 2017, book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Read all about it here: 9 to 5

Samantha Giffard is tackling the role of Roz and she chatted to Break A Leg about the challenges of taking on the role and why everybody should come and see the show. 

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, tell me about your character in 9 to 5…

My character in the show is Roz Keith. She is Franklin Harts office assistant and is secretly obsessed with him! She’s uptight, plays by the rules and loves control!

From my memories of the show, Roz is quite a character – what are the challenges of playing her?

In previous productions she has always been played by older women so initially I thought that was challenging. However I’m playing Roz in her 30’s as there’s nothing in the text that states her actual age!

Any particular favourite numbers in the show?

I really love the opening number ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Get out and stay out’ is also a favourite of mine (Amanda Coutts smashes it!).

Describe a typical rehearsal…

Usually they’ve begun with a vocal and physical warm-up and then we’ve started learning the scene or musical number. This tends to be singing the music/harmonies, having a line read through and marking through choreography. This show has lots of musical numbers so we started with these early on in the rehearsal process.

How do you think the space will lend itself to the musical?

I think it will work well in a smaller space as the majority of the show is set in an office and Chris Whittaker (choreographer) has been very clever with the staging and scene changes.

If you could play a different character in the show, who would it be and why?

I would absolutely love to play Doralee just because I never get to play blondes!

What can the audience expect from the show?

Great singing, high energetic staged numbers and truthful story telling.

Finally why should everyone come and buy a ticket to see it?

Firstly because it’s a Dolly Parton show and she’s awesome and writes fab songs! Secondly because the cast are brilliant and it’s a feel-good musical!

Thanks so much, Sam – I am looking forward to watching you play Roz! 

Spotlight On… Star of 9 to 5 The Musical, Louise Olley

9 to 5 will burst onto the scene at Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, London from 30 August to 1 October 2017, book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Read all about it here: 9 to 5

Louise Olley is playing Doralee in the show, Dolly Parton’s role – Break A Leg caught up with Louise to get the gossip… 

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Louise – tell me about 9 to 5 the musical and your character. 

9 to 5 is a really fun musical, it’s about three ladies who work in an office and they are treated as inferior to their male colleagues – particularly by their boss, Mr Hart. The ladies decide to get their revenge, they kidnap him and while he’s gone they change things for the better. My character is Doralee, she is a real Texan home-girl from very humble roots. Her appearance is very glam and sexy but she has got a massive heart and is in a very happy marriage, so the attention that she gets from the men is unwanted.

How familiar were you with the story?

I didn’t know the story, I hadn’t seen the show on stage or the film. I knew the character of Doralee as I’m a massive Dolly Parton fan and she was Dolly Parton’s character in the film so I knew that I would love to play her at some point. I have since done a lot of research, seen the film and watched a lot of footage from various productions of the show.

Do you think that the space will lend itself well to the production?

I think it’s going to be perfect, I’ve seen a few shows at the venue before and it’s a very intimate space which I think this piece needs really. The storyline is very intimate and the characters are very real so it will be nice to be close enough to the audience to bring them into the story with us.

Now you’re in the throes of rehearsals and you’ve got to know the story so well, is there another character that you would love to play if the chance occurred?

That’s a good questions! There’s a character called Margaret in the show and she’s a bit of a drunk, she’s a really fun character or Roz is another character I’d love to have a go at, she’s totally in love with Mr Hart while the other girls all hate him! She’s a great character and the actor who’s playing her, Samantha Giffard is really getting her teeth into that character, she’s going to steal the show!

What led you into a performing career?

I was three when I started performing and I loved it, I was about seven when I decided it was what I wanted to do for a career. I was just doing school plays and realised that was where I was happiest and confident. I fell in love with it around that kind of time and went to University before I went to drama school because I wanted to have a good theatrical knowledge and I did a very theory based course, I also wanted to make sure it was definitely what I wanted to do because it’s a very difficult industry. I decided that I definitely still wanted to do it and my passion for it increased, so I went to drama school and here I am!

Are there any particular roles that you would like to play? 

I’d love to play Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, that’s a big one for me. I also really love classical musicals, last year I did Allegro at the Southwark Playhouse so if that went any further I would love to do that again.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket and come along to see 9 to 5?

You’re not going to regret it, it’s such good fun, the dancers in the show are phenomenal and they’re non-stop I don’t know how they’re doing it. We’ve got a ten-strong cast that feels like a twenty-strong cast and we’re doing massive numbers. You’ll go away with a huge smile on your face!

Thanks so much, Louise – I am so excited to see you as Doralee! 



Spotlight On… Star of 9 to 5 The Musical, Leo Senè

9 to 5 will burst onto the scene at Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, London from 30 August to 1 October 2017, book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Read all about it here: 9 to 5

I caught up with Leo Senè, who plays Franklin Hart Jr. in the show…

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, tell me about the piece and your character?

9 to 5 is a staged musical version of the classic film of the same name, which stared Dolly Parton in one of the main leads. The musical follows the same story of three women taking back control from their sexiest and egotistical boss. It follows Violet, Judy and Doralee on their journey of discovery and female power in a male dominant world. The musical comedy has music by Dolly Parton who created the original song 9 to 5 for the film. 

I play the role of Franklin Hart Jr, the boss of the workplace and the stories “villain”, he is an incredible vain and egotistical man who makes all of his employees lives a living hell, especially the females. 

What was your initial impression of the script?

The first time I read the script is immediately saw how much heart is in the story. Amongst all of the comedy, music and dancing is this true to itself piece about friendship and standing up to adversary. It is incredibly uplifting and brings a sense of pride with it. The writing is incredibly witty and smart and really gives you clear insight into these characters within the first few scenes. From there its builds and builds and the writing enables us to love all the characters, and mainly relate to them all in some way. 


Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

The challenge of any piece of theatre is taking it from the script and putting it onto the stage, what 9 to 5 does so well is that the writing does it all for you, which as an actor is a blessing. The lines and the narrative are so full detail it lends itself to be played in so many ways. 

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

In my eyes this role is a gift, Franklin Hart is so full of character and I just want to do the script justice. I want people to love to hate the character, be on the verge of finding him so outrageous yet hilarious at the same time. That’s all said without giving to much away, everyone will have to come and see the show and what all the cast bring to the stage. 

Leo with Pippa Winslow, in rehearsals

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The gatehouse is such a renowned venue and I myself have seen shows at the venue and always surprised how the creatives make such an intimate space seem so full of life. It will be the intimacy that will play to this shows strength. The story carries the show and in the surroundings of the gatehouse auditorium the audience will feel right among the action.  

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

9 to 5 is such a classic feel good show, it has heart and is full of laughs. It is an incredibly tight and well written musical, with songs that will have you tapping along throughout the show and singing them all the way home. There is no better way to spend an evening than at the theatre, 2 hours away from anything else and just be in the world that theatre provides. So make sure you buy ticket before they all go. 

Thanks so much, Leo – I can’t wait to see the show, it’s one of my favourites! 


Spotlight On… Singer & Performer, Shawn Cuddy

Visit Shawn’s website for current tour details: www.shawncuddy.co.uk

Having studied and learned his craft supporting and touring with the likes of Johnny Cash and Foster & Allen, Shawn Cuddy has become on of Ireland’s premier and most polished entertainers. With a back catalogue of no less than 10 CD albums and 5 DVD’s, awards of Best Country Singer and Best Entertainer plus a string of hit singles he announces an extensive UK tour for 2017 and this stunning new song ‘Love’s Gonna Get You’.

The eldest of a family of eleven (seven boys and four girls), Shawn was born and raised in Camross where farming was a way of life. He could hardly had envisaged that one day he would be hosting fan club weekends to people from across the globe and performing regularly across the UK and beyond.

During his very early years in show business Shawn performed with two of his sisters and eventually after working in a hospital, driving a truck and playing solo he formed his own band and has never looked back. They are now credited as being one of the hardest working groups on the dance and concert circuit having clocked up some 25 years on the road!

In 1987 a relatively unknown singer by the name of Daniel O’Donnell performed in Ireland and Shawn was there. Having watched the now legendary Irish singer, Shawn was clear where his destiny lay. They spoke after that show and have remained close friends since that very night. Indeed it was Daniel that introduced Shawn to the manager of K-Tel who then released his debut single and set him on the path to success.

“I first met Shawn when we played the Harriers Club in Tullamore. He was doing the support act on the show and I was so impressed with his voice and stage presence that I encouraged him to get a band on the road and travel some more – and that he did! Since then we’ve done many shows together and he has provided the music at many of my fan club functions and I, and everyone else there, have enjoyed his music over the years.”

– Daniel O’Donnell

Now aged 51, Shawn recently told reporters he is enjoying performing as much as ever and has absolutely no plans to hang up his microphone: –

“As long as I have the stamina, I’ll continue to sing…but if you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t do it!”

Shawn gave an exclusive interview to Break A Leg as his current tour progresses:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Shawn. Tell me about your tour and what the audience can expect.

At our gigs you can expect a range between Country & Irish with a bit of Rock & Roll. We as a band try to have a mixed genre to ensure the audience feel included in the show rather than just an audience.

Any venue you’re really keen to play?

One venue I have always really wanted to play is the London Palladium, It is the most beautiful venue with extremely talented artists such as Kenny Rodgers gracing their stages. It has always been a dream of mine.

Which artists inspire you?

When I was younger I was always inspired by the Irish singers during my time such as Big Tom & Foster & Allen therefore they were always reasons behind why I began singing in the first place.  Broader artists that would have inspired me would definitely have to be Johnny Cash & Dolly Parton, two truly talented people whom I always wanted to be like.

What led you to a singing career?

When I was young my Grandfather taught me and introduced me into the music scene, I decided then when I left school I wanted to become a male nurse & began working in the Hospital in Mountrath, I worked there for a couple of years but down the line I decided music was what I wanted to do so I began doing a one man show in local pubs around the Laois area until 1989 when I decided to put the band on the road and 27 years on I have never looked back.

What has been the highlight if your career so far?

My highlight as I always would state is the touring with legendary artists such as Johnny Cash & Foster & Allen, but in my 27 years on the road I still find it difficult to pin point anything else in particular as I have loved my career and everything about it stands out in itself to me.

Finally, what would you say to potential audience members to encourage them to come?

I definitely believe we as a band like to make our audience feel welcome and like they are part of a family for the time they are with us. As the old song goes “If you come in feeling lonely, you’re leaving feeling fine”. That’s the way we like to make our audience and friends feel at a Shawn Cuddy band show.

Thanks to Shawn for his interview and wishing him all the best for the tour.

9 to 5 The Musical – Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

9 to 5 Four 9 to 5 One

The glitz and glamour of ‘Dollywood’ arrived in Wolverhampton this week in the form of touring musical ‘9 to 5’ based on the film starring Dolly Parton and with music and lyrics written by the lady herself. Our second visit to see this fun, fast and furious show, yet it did not fail to have us exiting the theatre with a huge smile on our faces and a real hankering for a pink glittery Stetson (maybe just for Helen…).

‘9 to 5’ tells the story of three working girls from very different backgrounds, they need a job but they don’t need the hassles that come from their chauvinistic, sexist boss Franklyn J Hart. However, a hazy ‘day-dream’ during an alcohol and smoke-fuelled girls night in comes to fruition, and with outlandish consequences. There are some toe tapping numbers, including the title song ‘9 to 5’, ‘Shine Like the Sun’ and ‘Change It’. There’s also a surprise visit from Dolly herself, making it a show that we truly believe has something for everyone.

The three leading ladies are all exceptional, each one stands out on in their own right for playing believable characters who couldn’t differ more from the other. Jackie Clune is Violet, the head-strong widow who is desperate for promotion and who’s dream is to become the first female CEO. Clune has a beautifully rich vocal tone, ably singing all of the numbers to a high standard. ‘Let Love Grow’ (duet with suitor Joe in act two) was a memorable moment. Natalie Casey has put her trademark ‘quirkiness’ on the role of Judy and displayed her usual precise comic timing together with a marvellous vocal range. Casey is an actress of immense talent and her career successes to date reflect her versatility. It must be a difficult task to take on the role of Doralee which is cherished by Dolly’s fans (it’s the role that Dolly played in the film) but we couldn’t fault Amy Lennox, she epitomised Parton while simultaneously making the character her own. ‘Backwoods Barbie’ was her solo number and Lennox’s singing voice lent itself to the country and western genre, superbly. This girl is one to watch out for, and we both felt that we could picture her in many other leading roles, we hope our prophecy comes true!

Ben Richards is an outstanding ‘Mr Nasty’ aka the boss, Franklyn J Hart, the character is despised by most but adored by Roz Keith, office memo enthusiast and ‘odd-ball’ who’s desire is that Hart feels the same way as she does about him. Bonnie Langford played the role of Roz when we watched this for the first time, so these were big shoes to fill – but Anita Louise Combe should be commended for a hilarious performance.

The cast for this production is fairly minimal in comparison to other shows that we have seen, but there’s a real sense that this is a team effort and opportunities for each performer to provide a glimpse of what they’re capable of. A thoroughly talented ensemble, indeed and praise must go to Lori Hayley Fox as Margaret, a cameo role that has stayed with us since the first time around and that we eagerly anticipated watching again – “atta girl!”.

The show stays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 18th May and you can book tickets via their website http://www.grandtheatre.info. Tour dates can be accessed at http://www.9to5themusical.co.uk.

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