‘Working…’ 9 to 5 the Musical, (RelaxedPerformance) Bob Hope Theatre, Eltham, 20.04.2024

Being a mother, who loves theatre is hard when you have a toddler. Its harder to just get up, purchase tickets and make your way to a theatrical performance that it used to be. Not that I’m complaining as she means the world to me, because it is a dream that one day I might just get to share this passion with my daughter, Maisie. We have been lucky to have been to Bring your own Baby Comedy, and most recently Baby Broadway, but we hadn’t seen a show as lets face it would a 2 year old be quiet enough for those not to get annoyed. Well, amateur theatre group Bromley Players Musical Productions helped immensely by kindly inviting me to their relaxed performance of their current show – 9 to 5 the Musical.

Now what is a ‘relaxed performance’, it is a show that’s been adapted to suit those who might require a more relaxed environment when attending theatre. Usually, these are adults or children with learning difficulties such as autism or sensory communication disorders. But also, is opened up to those with younger children – such as myself.

It may mean that some technical changes may have been made to the performance such as quieter music, reducing loud or surprising sound effect and avoiding strobe lighting. But one thing that was great for me was that the atmosphere was relaxed! Lights aren’t turned off completely. There is a provided ‘Chill-out’ area for those to visit if the experience becomes too much. For myself and Maisie in particular it was the allowance of being about to enter and leave the auditorium freely, and Maisie was aloud to walk up and down the aisle with out being starred down or upset. There was such an open attitude towards audience noise and movement and it was lovely to be able to share this experience with Maisie along with others. I could enjoy the show and Maisie could enjoy being her – but also loved watching the musical numbers!

Bromley Players and the Bob Hope theatre ensured that everything was carried out perfectly, from the front of house stewards knowing what to say and were friendly and approachable. A open introduction to the cast before curtain up and away they went, although the auditorium wasn’t fully filled the Players ensured that it was performed like a sell out show they have succeeded in their evening and matinee performances – and rightly so! Then at the end, the audience members were allowed to meet the leading cast and talk and take photos, which was a lovely touch!

Now, onto the show. 9 to 5 the Musical is based on the 1980 movie of the same name, with music and lyrics by the famous country singer Dolly Parton. Set late 1970s, it tells a hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era being outrageous, thought-provoking and even a little romantic. Pushed to the boiling point, three female co-workers and unexpected friends concoct a plan to get even with the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot – their boss. Their dream – giving their boss the boot! While he remains “otherwise engaged,” the women give their workplace a dream makeover, taking control of the company that had always kept them down.

Directed by William Rye, not a stranger to Bromley Players having directed and chereographed many Bromley Player productions, he ensures that 9-5 has a professional approach through out. With a simple set, it ensured that the cast brought the show to life on stage. He ensured that his casting was perfect for each role, which was clearly displayed through his highly energetic cast in their first show of a three show day!

Stepping into the heels of the three ladies were Bethan O’Donnell as assistant to President Doralee Rhodes, Laura Whitingham as working mum Violet Newstead, and Emily Rushton as new starter Judy Bernly. All were such a joy to watch and brilliant within their roles. Bethan had an amazing Texas twang within her accent and in her singing that accompanied her character perfectly, a performance im sure that even Dolly would enjoy (who played the role in the film), Laura held the story and her determination was pulled throughout, she was confident, strong in her singing and her joy and passion was clearly displayed. Emily, I thoroughly enjoyed watching her grow from a nervous new starter to a confident young lady, her rendition of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ was a personal favourite that allowed Judy to shine and show off her talent.

Along with the three leading ladies, were their supporting cast Chairman Ian Chapman wears the suit of the President Franklin Hart Jr. who defiantly took on the persona of the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot, with a few comic moments enjoyed by the cast especially during his number ‘Here for You’. You could tell he was enjoying playing the role and was perfectly cast – he even had his real life wife Sarah Chapman in the role of Franklins wife Missy, it was great to see them both performing together on stage and you could tell that Sarah was enjoying playing the role. Then there was Jackie Langridge, as Roz Keith who only has eyes for Franklin – probably only one who does. ‘Hart to Hart’ had Maisie mesmerised with the brilliant dancing and performance, choreographed by Jennie Rye, Maisie was joining in throughout and Jackie slayed it!

The whole cast worked well together, providing a top production to everyone. You could tell that they were enjoying themselves throughout. Although this is deemed as an amateur production, ‘amateur’ it was far from. The hug I received from Maisie, as we were getting into the card reassured me that she had had a fun time, it was such a joy to share this with her. But also, myself got to enjoy some brilliant theatre.

The run finishes today, Bromley Players will be back this October with their next production – The Wedding Singer, it will be interesting to see what they have in store!

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