On the 26th, 27th and 28th of October, the Musical Medics Society performed their take on 9 to 5: The Musical at the Jubilee Theatre in St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth. The musical took place seven weeks after the initial auditions back in September, as the cast, crew and band were formed almost entirely of fourth year medicine students.
Though there’s rumours that fourth year medics used to put on a musical back in the 80s and 90s, the BBC reported that the Society has only been in existence since 2010, when they performed Footloose with a group of about 30 people. Since then, the Society’s performances have included Fame: The Musical, Disco Inferno, Sweet Charity, Anything Goes, Cabaret and Pippin.
For those that aren’t familiar with 9 to 5: The Musical, it’s based on the film 9 to 5, from which the famous Dolly Parton hit is the titular theme song. Set in a misogynistic 1970s workplace, the musical follows the story of three women and their experiences in the face of routine sexism.
The show opens with the titular tune, with the character Dolly, portrayed by Joey Gwinnell, introducing the three main characters in turn. The personality of each character shines through, as Adele Pope’s Judy Bernley comes across as polite and nervous, Shayna Franzetti’s Doralee warm but objectified, and Elish McKenna’s Violet fierce, independent, but tied down with responsibility.
There are a few scornful faces as Franzetti’s character walks past, with McKenna humorously adding “we don’t like her”
Based in the office, the three characters have their own roles. Being the new girl, the number ‘Around Here’ focuses on Judy’s introduction to the company, as McKenna depicts a very frustrated Violet rattling through every item of stationary and office role. Every other line is repeated by the other workers, with the tune ending in 20 members of the chorus crowding round the flustered Judy.
Following ‘9 to 5’, ‘Around Here’ is a lot more of a typical musical number. Whilst its punchy and snappy sound echoes the titular number, it adds witty narrative mixed with catchy hooks and harmonies. Listening out for the band, the perfect timing is noticeable, as the song to and fros between the chorus and the leads.
Having been introduced to Doralee during ‘9 to 5’, she’s first introduced to Judy after her dramatic tour of the office. There are a few scornful faces as Franzetti’s character walks past, with McKenna humorously adding “we don’t like her”, obviously due to her buxom nature, which Franzetti brilliantly plays up to.
Each of the main characters have their own interactions with ‘the boss’, Franklin M. Hart Jr., superbly brought to life on stage by James Worthington, who appears to not only get away with his everyday sexism, but be triumphed for it. The song ‘Here For You’ encapsulates that, as Worthington entertains the audience with his histrionic advances on Doralee, having enjoyed undermining Violet, knowing his leverage over her as she guns for promotion. He also palms off his wife, hinting that he’s not really keen on going a “spaghetti loveboat” around the Mediterranean.
In amidst the office misogyny, we’re introduced to one of the lads in the office, Joe, aptly played by Joe Sagar. On face value, Joe seems to have better morals than his other male colleagues, though that doesn’t stop him putting in a bid with Violet who swiftly palms him off due to their age difference. Unsatisfied, Joe is set to come back with a more convincing fresh bid later on.
We next see our three heroines each launch into ‘I Just Might’ as each one one them looks to tackle the challenges that face them. McKenna continues her brilliant ability to deliver humour and flawless vocals, whilst Franzetti delivers character with strength and soul, as she’s assured by her uncomfortable but sweet husband, played by Fred Barker, and Pope again takes centre stage with her recognisable and resonant vocals.
She confronts her boss, potently threatening to change Hart “from a rooster to a hen”
The contempt towards Doralee is demonstrated in the following scene, as no one in the office accepts her offer of lunch, with Judy adding that she declines just because she’s “trying to go with the flow”. Her feelings towards the judgement towards her are voiced in ‘Backwoods Barbie’ (‘Backwoods’ being a general term for areas of rural poverty in the U.S.), a solid, heartfelt ballad. Her voice was powerful and soulful, but still managed to encapsulate that country vibe that runs so deep through the character.
Office gossip is unsurprisingly rife throughout the musical, with Hart’s nosy administrative assistant Roz Keith being the boss’s eyes and ears throughout. After Doralee discovers that the source of the prejudice in the office is Hart’s bragging about a fabricated affair between the two of them, she confronts her boss, potently threatening to change Hart “from a rooster to a hen.”
Roz, played by crowd-favourite Jasmine Morrish, then comically comforts Hart, before shuffling right up close to Worthington to snitch on Leah Williams’ Maria Delgado for pointing out the gender pay gap in the workplace. Morrish’s performance throughout was a fresh take on the character Roz, having added a lot more humour to the role than what has been seen in previous stage shows of the musical; immediately becoming a much more popular character, and getting more audience response, than any other versions I’ve seen.
Over their hatred for Hart, our three leads bond for the first time over some marijuana, which leads into an unexpected scene, as Judy, Doralee and Violet sing three psychedelic and somewhat prophetic numbers, one after the other, within which they conjure up a scenario illustrating the way they’d like to give Hart his comeuppance.
Judy envisions a gangster scenario, seamlessly changing from a weed-induced slouch to a sleek, elegant temptress, seducing Hart before tying him up and shooting him. Doralee then dreams of a stereotypical Texan scenario, as she treats Hart how he has treated her, but during a hoedown rather than his office. Finally, Violet acts as a delirious princess cooking up a potion for Hart, which ends up knocking him off his chair.
Back to reality, life seems to be going on as normal, besides the three leads are now friends. However, things started to rapidly change when Violet accidentally served Hart coffee lined with rat poison, though most were more worried about the blood soaking shirt, as the mug he smashed in Violet’s dream seemed to deal a bit more literal damage.
With Hart now tied up, the only apparent option was to kidnap him
Hiding in a toilet cubicle, Roz overhears Violet telling Doralee and Judy that she’d poisoned their boss, which she immediately reported to Hart to tell him of their crime. After briefly acting pathetic, Hart and Roz fiendishly mastermind a plan to pretend that he’s been fatally poisoned by Violet.
Presuming the worst, Violet, Judy and Doralee head to the hospital, where they overhear Detective Emma Rainey discussing a death by poison. In a hysterical panic, Violet grabs some scrubs and wheels away a corpse. When Judy and Doralee find her, she helpfully confirms “GOOD NEWS, I’M NOT HYSTERICAL” before attempting to turn herself in. When she reveals the body she believes to be Hart, she’s surprised to find a small mannequin, who doesn’t look like Hart at all. Subsequently, she covers for herself then swiftly runs off.
Before going to clear all the evidence up, the three leads head to Hart’s office, not knowing he’s inside. Doralee is left in the office on her own, which Hart sees as the best chance to present himself. After he sexually advances on Doralee, she reacts by channelling her ‘Cowgirl’s Revenge’ tying him up. Hart, having originally believed that this was some form of sex game, then has a gun thrust in his face by Doralee. Judy then stumbles in, prompting Doralee passes over the gun. Judy then fulfils her prophetic dream by firing at Hart.
With Hart now tied up, the only apparent option was to kidnap him, so they take him back to his house, with his wife off an a “spaghetti loveboat”. The scene then seamlessly changes into ‘Shine Like the Sun’, as Franzetti wheels away to start the belter. During the tune, Hart is nonchalantly stored in his own wardrobe, whilst the other three sing about how therapeutic it is to give a misogynist like Hart what he deserves up until the start of the interval.
After the break, we’re welcomed to a much revamped workplace, as Violet has been running the ship since Hart’s disappearance. On a side, Judy ad Doralee try to help Violet find some evidence that will incriminate Hart so he’ll strike a deal with them. They manage to uncover a big of financial scumbaggery that proves that Hart has been stealing from the company.
The women in the office then manage to shift Roz to a language resource centre in Denver, being sent off with the funny but equally heartfelt ‘5 to 9’. In celebration, the whole office buy some more colourful clothes and sing ‘Change It’, as Violet shakes it all up, including sending the office drunk, played by hip flask-wielding Megan Lord, to rehab. This is Doralee’s biggest tune in the musical, and Franzetti delivers it flawlessly, again channelling that country vibe whilst belting out the lyrics in the reverberating fashion fitting only for a stage musical.
Throughout the end of Act I and the start of Act II, the show superbly balances humour with the deeper aspects of the plot
Such excitement sparks the return of Joe Sagar, as he finally makes his return to the stage. Channelling his best James Morrison, Sagar serenades Violet as his good heart, soothing voice and shaky hands win her over.
Throughout the end of Act I and the start of Act II, the show superbly balances humour with the deeper aspects of the plot. During Judy’s ex’s untimely visit, Hart manages to loosen one of his handcuffs. Within moments of his near escape, Adele Pope belts out a heartfelt rendition of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’, as her estranged ex-husband gets the wrong end of the stick and thinks that she’s now into a bit of S&M.
However, Hart is successful in his escape, holding Judy hostage until he gets to the office. His confrontation is then interrupted by the undisputed champion Mr Tinsworthy, played by Cormac Goode. Classic lines such as “piejamas” and “pink and fluffy handcuffs” go down a treat with the crowd in his southern comfort accent. Tinsworthy immediately gains hero status by banishing Hart to Bolivia, whilst appointing Violet at CEO. No one questions why he knows about a military coup in Bolivia, because he’s a man you wouldn’t question.
That concludes proceedings, as the cast are followed by director Nicole Cripps, musical directors Anna Homes and Jake Hawkyard, producer Bronwyn Woodburn, stage manager Kate Stanton, and the choreographers on stage to bow and sponge up some applause. Needless to say the musical was a massive success. Everyone in the band, cast and crew seemed to play their part brilliantly, coming together fantastically on the two nights that I went to.
The Society dedicates all of the proceeds to a certain charity each year. Back in 2010, the beneficiaries were the East End Health Out and About Stroke Club; since then Dementia Care, Divising Psychosis Project, Changing Lives, Mind (in both 2015 and 2016), and now Newcastle Women’s Aid have been the chosen charities. Last year they raised around £3000, which they hope to have beaten this year.