Interview with 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL star Ben Richards.

etc’s Marie Westmoreland spoke to British actor Ben Richards (The Bill, Holby City and Footballers Wives), who is busy rehearsing for Dolly Parton’s hit musical ahead of its UK debut in October

9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL is described by Ben as “the ultimate girl-power show”.

It is a hilarious comedy based on the hit movie and centres on three office workers who turn the tables on their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss, Franklyn Hart – the role Ben is taking on. 

He said: “It’s a great role, he is a fantastic baddy to play. As an actor it’s lovely to play a character that is nothing like yourself, it’s such a challenge.

“Recently I played a homosexual drag queen in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which was exciting.” 

 Ben’s other West End credits include Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Danny in Grease, Tony in Saturday Night Fever and Jerry Lukowski in The Full Monty.

This show, which will head to the Sunderland Empire for a one-week run (October 29 – November 3), features Dolly Parton’s original hit title song 9 to 5, which won her an Oscar nomination and four Grammy Award nominations, along with her new Tony and Grammy nominated score.

“When you have such a talented songwriter like Dolly Parton involved it’s perfect. She has mixed the story with some fantastic songs, her song writing is just so good. There are some amazing tunes and each one is a slammer,” added Ben. 

There are 18 original Dolly Parton numbers, including songs such as Backwoods Barbie, Shine Like the Sun, Get Out and Stay Out and Let Love Grow, from her last two albums.

Dolly Parton said:  “I am so excited that 9 to 5 the Musical is coming to the UK. I’m hoping people have as much fun watching it as I had writing the music for it. 9 to 5 the Musical is perfect for anyone that’s ever wanted to string up their boss, which is almost all of us. So come join the fun!”

The show also stars: Natalie Casey (Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps / Legally Blonde) as Judy Bernly; Jackie Clune (Billy Elliot / Mama Mia) as Violet Newstead; Amy Lennox (Sound of Music / Legally Blonde) as Doralee Rhodes and Bonnie Langford (Chicago / Cats) as Roz Keith.

The musical will open on October 12 in Manchester Opera House before it visits the region where it will stop off at the Sunderland Empire.

Ben Richards Q&A

How does it feel to have been cast as part of this show and how are you preparing for it?
It’s a great honour and it’s very exciting company. When you have such a talented songwriter like Dolly Parton involved it’s perfect. We have just started rehearsals and have been going through the script which is brilliant. It opens in Manchester and I’m looking forward to touring and visiting Sunderland.

What attracted you to the musical?
I loved the film so when this came up it was a great interested to me. I saw some of the Broadway productions on YouTube and loved it.

Can you tell me about your role as Franklyn Hart ?
It’s a great role, he is a fantastic baddy to play, it’s just perfect. I played Hook not so long ago, so I have got a taster for playing a baddy.

The character is described as a ‘sexist, egotistical, bigot’ are you not worried about people judging you this way after the show?
(Laughs) Luckily when I meet people they see I am nothing like the character. As an actor it’s lovely to play a character that is nothing like yourself, it’s such a challenge.  These roles excite me. I don’t think there’s too much to worry about, people seem to disassociate me from the characters.

Compared to the number of musicals you have starred in. What makes 9 to 5 unique? 
Essentially two major factors really. The original film we have kept very very true to, it’s such a great story and so much fun. And I think especially, it’s such a difficult time, we are all feeling the pinch as far as the economy is concerned, and what people want to do is go out and have a really good time.

Your singing voice is great – have you not thought about going into the music industry, possibly release an album?
I’d love to do something at some point, but if it never happens then it’s no biggie for me.

Do you have a favourite scene in the musical?
There are some fantastic scenes when Frank gets tied up in the air, but I don’t want to give too much away.

What are the other cast members like?
We have a great cast and a good bunch of talented leads. I have known Natalie [Casey] for a while, I’m very good friends with her sister.  Amy [Lennox] is sweet, Jackie [Clune] is very funny and I’ve worked with Bonnie Langford before on the Guys and Dolls tour.

Will Dolly Parton be a the premier in Manchester?
I don’t know for sure but she has been really involved, so who knows!

How would you sum up the vibe of the show?
It’s the ultimate girl power show, leave your troubles at the door and enjoy a fun-filled exciting experience.

What is your signature scent?
It’s only sold in Harrods and Selfridges and is called Creed.

How do you relax?
I just like to chill with friends and have a nice glass of wine.  I have good mates, I try to hang out with my best mate and his family.

How do you keep in shape?
Swimming and I go to the gym and do weight training and stuff.

What couldn’t you leave home without?
Phone, wallet and my watch.
 
What is next for you after the tour ends? Will you be going back to TV?
I have no idea, I’m doing this tour till February, then I’m off to L.A. to try out for some pilots before coming back on the tour till May. Every year there are loads of auditions for TV shows. Everything you have watched started off as a pilot. During the New Year loads of actors and actress got to L.A to audition for things, so I’ll be one of many auditioning.

Sunderland Empire for a limited, one- week run from Monday, October 29 – Saturday, November 3.
Tickets are priced £15 – £33.50 (Premium Seats also available). Book in person at the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland (Mon to Sat, 12pm – 6pm).
Call the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or go to www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland*
*Booking fees apply to telephone and online sales.
For more information visit www.9to5themusical.co.uk

Marie Westmoreland

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