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CHMS Production of ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ – Review

Students, staff and members of the public alike flocked to the charming Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York last week for the Central Hall Musical Society production of ‘9 to 5’. This was the latest upbeat and captivating instalment from the University of York’s very own CHMS, who’ve previously put on highly successful musical theatre productions of Chicago, Legally Blonde and Sister Act!.

Based on the 1980 film of the same name, 9 to 5 features music and lyrics written by the queen of country herself, Dolly Parton. Through energetic song and dance, this young cast convincingly told the story of three female secretaries who find themselves pushed to breaking point by their sexist and arrogant boss, setting out an elaborate plan of revenge to claim back their own narratives. Under the skilful direction of Lauren Maxey, audience members were treated to an engaging and highly energetic production of this challenging musical, guided by the three strong women who filled the theatre with life and light. Of particular note was the outstanding portrayal of Doralee, played by Alicia Hartley who confidently brought Dolly Parton to life with her striking Southern accent and captivating stage presence. The audience was rooting for both Violet (played by Lorna Capewell) and Judy (played by Anna Gallon) who captured our attention through their female relatability and open vulnerabilities. Despite the show’s focus being on these three leading ladies, the hilarious and eccentric character of Roz Keith (played by Izzie Norwood) drew constant laughter from the audience, and Franklin (played by Will Harvey) managed to hold his own amongst these admiral women, putting on a strong portrayal of a selfish office boss. The loveable Joe (played by Adam Clayton) captured the hearts of the audience, bringing a unique warmth to the stage and gifting the audience with his amazing vocals.

Picture credit: Joseph Rowntree Theatre

While watching, I found it hard to believe this production was completely student-led: the outstanding choreography devised by Eleanor O’Conor was top-class, and alongside the stunning musical direction of Aidan Dixon, the team transformed an amateur university level production into one resembling a calibre of much higher quality. Energetic and animated performances from the ensemble truly brought the show to life, with all members of the chorus clearly loving the opportunity to be back on stage after the pandemic put a sudden halt to all live shows. For many others like myself, this was the first time sitting in a packed audience for over two years, and what a treat it was. Engrossing from the moment the cast tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, the countless hours put in by the cast and production team (led by the talented Hannah Bragman) were apparent, with smooth transitions and committed performances shining through as soon as the curtain lifted.

CHMS has succeeded in colourfully presenting the themes of gender equality and women’s rights in a male-dominated world while still maintaining a positive and light-hearted feel. The cast and production team should be truly proud of themselves – what a show.

Written by Lilli Bagnall