Solihull's St Augustine's MTC have never been a group to shy away from a challenge, which was very much proved tonight, as they presented the Solihull premiere of 9 to 5 the Musical.
Dolly Parton's feel-good show is packed with warmth, charm and hilarity, and STAGS had this in oodles. Not only did each principal ooze talent, so did the ensemble - and that's what made this production so incredibly enjoyable.
Under the assured direction of Veronica Walsh, her experience was abundantly clear. This show was exceedingly well cast, with talent aplenty emerging from the central characters as well as the supporting performers. Joe was endearingly played by Ed Mears, who excellently captured the young, lovelorn junior accountant. The duet shared with Violet (Let Love Grow) was wholly engrossing.
Another super performance came from Nicola Palfrey as Roz Keith - garnering many a laugh throughout the night she delivered a confident and sassy performance.
Mark Hughes hilariously took on the role of the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot - Franklin Hart - making for a particularly smarmy, vomit-inducing boss as he ogled Doralee in Here for You. His performance was unwavering throughout.
But it was the trio of women who led from the front. They were a formidable team, each showcasing their vocal and acting talents impressively.
One of the most sublime pieces of character acting I have ever witnessed on the amdram scene came from Lauren Clarke as Judy Bernly - she really is a super talent. Her voice soared in Get Out and Stay Out and she was met with rapturous applause as she hit the last note. Joined by Jo Smith, who's wonderful country twang was a delight to the ear in Backwoods Barbie, coupled with the hilariously well acted performance from Loretta Parnell as Violet Newstead, the trio came into their own as they performed the rousing Act 1 finale: Shine Like the Sun.
Harmonies were incredibly tight throughout, under the musical direction of Stephen Powell and the complicated score was very well handled by the talented band. Plus, the choreography from Liane Hughes helped to step the show up another level.
Yes, there were some scene changes that impacted the pace of the performance, but this really is a show that deserves a sold out audience every night. The hard work of everyone involved shines through and it really was a delight from start to finish.
Review by Victoria Ellery-Jones
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