FOR Stephanie Chandos, stepping into the shoes of Dolly Parton every night as the hit musical 9 to 5 tours the country is a major challenge.

“It’s so far removed from who I am,” she says of the look of her character Doralee, the ditzy secretary who is constantly fending off the unwanted attention of her boss. “There’s all that pink and then the hair, the six-inch stilettos plus about four thousand chicken fillets!”

Country legend Dolly famously played Doralee in the 1980 movie which has spawned the musical and the singer has been an integral part of bringing 9 to 5 to the stage and next week it is heading to Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

Stephanie originally performed as a member of the ensemble and was cover for both Doralee and the office drunk and was part of the show in London’s West End before lockdown hit theatres around the country.


Stephanie Chandos as Doralee in 9 to 5 the Musical (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Stephanie Chandos as Doralee in 9 to 5 the Musical (Picture: Pamela Raith)


“When they offered me the role of Doralee for this tour I had to send a video in for Dolly to confirm that she was happy for me to get the part,” said Stephanie. “I had to record myself singing songs from the shows but I only had my phone which isn’t the best sound quality and I was in a bit of a panic. But fortunately a friend of mine had a recording set up and helped me out so I managed to produce something that I felt was good enough for the Queen of Country.”

9 to 5 the Musical follows the storyline of the original film with a group of female office workers seeing to bring their misogynist boss back down to earth and Stephanie believes that the show strikes the perfect balance for a modern audience.

“There are a lot of gags and surprises and you’ve also got a great message but it’s showcased in a way that’s palatable It is very uplifting and you come out of it with a big grin on your face,” she said. “I think what’s interesting is how that original message still holds up today.

“We may be more aware now of such problems within the workplace but there is still a long way to go. It is a bit of a period piece too and it does remind us how far we have come.”


Stephanie Chandos, Claire Sweeney and Vivian Panka in 9 to 5 The Musical (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Stephanie Chandos, Claire Sweeney and Vivian Panka in 9 to 5 The Musical (Picture: Pamela Raith)


Also starring in the show are Claire Sweeney as Violet and Vivian Panka as Judy.

“They are all fantastic women and so diverse in character; it’s a really good team to be around,” said Stephanie.

Although she had understudied Doralee it was not until she got the ‘full Dolly Parton’ that Stephanie’s character clicked with her.

“During rehearsal you do your utmost but the final touches when they put the clothes and make up on and you suddenly feel ‘oh this is it’. Being Doralee in her heels and with what feels like a shelf of chicken fillets changes the way you move; you even sit differently.

“It’s funny because theatre people are great huggers - providing out lateral flow tests are OK of course. But when I’m Doralee I can’t really hug anyone as I’m so far away from them due to my chest.”

The show includes some great songs and there’s even a filmed welcome to the audience every night from Dolly herself.

“I think that’s really good,” said Stephanie. “It almost gives the audience permission to be involved, to relax and to get caught up in the show. Being on tour we have been on of the first live shows back in many theatres after Covid and you can feel the audience relaxing.”

During the enforced break Stephanie went back to live with her parents for a while.

“I was fortunate,” she said. “I had done a couple of cruise contracts and if you’re sensible you can save a lot so I had that to fall back on. I’ve attempted to work in other jobs before but that’s not gone well. I’m apparently too outspoken!

“My parents were very supportive but I hadn’t lived at home since I was 16 before I went to college so that took a bit of an adjustment.”

Getting the role of Doralee is a major break for Stephanie but it has also left in something of a quandry.

“Before I would go for dance or ensemble roles but now my profile is much higher,” she said, “so I’m not quite sure what I will be in for next once the tour comes to an end.

“My dream thing would be to play some traditionally male roles. Traditionally in musical theatre the male roles tend to get all the fun and glory moments and I’d love to challenge those perceptions.”

Sounds as though a little of Doralee has rubbed off!

9 to 5 the Musical, Pal;ace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, March 1 to Saturday, March 5. Details from