Director and Choreographer: Jeff Calhoun
Music and Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Reviewer: Jenni Dixon
The musical, just as in the film is centred on the friendship between three women who work in the business offices of a large corporation known as Consolidated located in Chicago. Judy Bernly (Natalie Casey) is a naïve new employee, a recent divorcee whose husband left her for his secretary. On her first day, Judy meets Violet Newstead (Jackie Clune), the supervisor of her department, and a long-time employee of Consolidated. Violet trains Judy and introduces her to the department executive, Franklin Hart, Jr. (Ben Richards), who immediately reveals himself to be arrogant and sexist. Judy soon learns that Violet, an employee for over 15 years, has been passed over consistently by those who could promote her. The third woman in the trio is the buxom Southern belle Doralee Rhodes (Amy Lennox), Hart’s personal secretary. All the other women assume she is having an affair with Hart and judge her on her “Barbie doll” looks.
Through various events, the three women come to realise they have the same hatred for their boss and all is not as it seems. During a drinking session at Violets house and smoking marijuana together, the three women discuss their detailed fantasies about how they would kill Hart if they had the chance.
The chance arises for the women to take revenge on their egotistical and sexist boss and they take full advantage. With Hart “out of the way” Violet takes charge and productivity levels soar. This is noted by the company director Tinsworthy who “rewards” Hart upon his eventual return (escape!) for his good work by immediately removing him from his position and sending him to work on a special project in Bolivia, much to the amusement and delight of Violet, Doralee, and Judy as now they are free from Hart who will never try to destroy them without destroying his own career.
Jackie Clune as Violet is fantastic. She has a great balance between the slightly insecure widowed mom and the career focussed go getter. A really sure and clean performance. Natalie Casey as Judy got her fair share of laughs for the evening. Those who know her well from her TV rôles will recognise elements of other characters in her performance; however those who don’t will relish her dry humour. Amy Lennox as Doralee again shows a strong and committed act. All three ladies have fantastic professional singing voices and a dominate stage presence. Bonnie Langford, with albeit a relatively small rôle as Roz steals the show with her “Heart to Hart” number demonstrating the consummate professional she has become. Such grace and ease make her shine in her enviable cameo. Ben Richards as Franklin Hart is again, superb. A slimy, hateable, egotistical bully who never falters from character.
The rest of the ensemble dance with power and precision, have clear and strong voices and make light work of preparing the stage with the movable set ensuring a really smooth flow to the whole piece. truly genius set design which moves around on wheels allowing the set to and scene changes to be cleverly choreographed into the acts. The live music is well timed and in tune with the actors, pauses for laughter and clapping were managed effectively. Costumes were of the late 70’s early 80’s era, enough crimpline dresses for all to enjoy!
This really is a fantastic tongue in cheek, cheese on a stick, bright and sparkly piece of escapism. Great singing, great dancing and an amazing balance of professionalism and fun. Fans of Dolly won’t be disappointed (she appears via video recordings too!). A feel good, fast paced, jolly good night out!