As Mark Crossland and the 9 to 5 Band strike up the instantly recognisable opening bars of the title song, Dolly Parton appears (via video) high above the stage to tell of a men-only business world that is long gone – or is it? Although you would have to go a long way to find a boss as obnoxious as Franklyn J Hart Jnr, I am sure that they still exist. The show that the packed audience is about to see is not just a look back at how bad things were, but also a reminder that we are still not “out of the woods”.
The title song, which soon turns into a full company dance number, is fast-paced, slick, colourful and interspersed with more video as Parton introduces us to the main characters in the tale. Those characters, and the storyline itself, stays faithful to the iconic 1980 film version with the cast mirroring the performances of the original stars very well.
The story concerns Hart who, as the title of one of the numbers in Act One says, is a "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" played brilliantly by Ben Richards. The vile way that he treats “his girls” in the office makes him such a loathsome individual that it is almost painful to watch him.
Violet Newstead Jackie Clune is the department supervisor who takes new employee Judy Bernley Natalie Casey under her wing when she discovers that Bernley has lied on her CV and actually has no office experience at all. Clune and Casey are faultless in their roles and the way their characters are developed is simply masterful.
Mr Hart’s secretary, Texan farm girl Doralee Rhodes, is the role originally played by Parton. Her shoes are now filled by Amy Lennox who is an incredible look- and sound-alike for the original star. She too develops her character very well, and gets some brilliant one-liners along the way.
Bonnie Langford plays the last of the main characters in the piece, Roz Keith. She is Hart’s office spy and, as well as keeping him informed of all the office gossip, she harbours secret desires for him which explode all over the stage in the fantasy dance number "Heart to Hart". As she throws herself, and Hart, around the stage she is able to show off not only her stunning basque- and suspender-clad figure but also the incredible dance moves that have kept her at the very top of her game for so long.
The rest of the company take the remaining roles, as well as being responsible for the military precision demanded as they change the scene from office to bedroom, and back again, with frightening regularity. Their dance numbers are all bang on the mark and, despite being on the road for two months, they attack each number as if it were the opening night.
Parton’s brilliant songs all fit perfectly into the narrative with Doralee’s "Backwoods Barbie" and Judy’s "Get out and stay out" two of the most powerful numbers in the piece. With such a superb combination of story and song it is very easy to see why this tour has just been extended to run past the middle of next year!