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Meet the Scots actress who is filling Dolly Parton's bras

It's a role that requires fake hair, a fake southern twang and, for this Scottish actress, a quite definitely fake chest.

Amy Lennox as Doralee Rhodes. Photo - Paul Rider
Amy Lennox as Doralee Rhodes. Photo - Paul Rider

But when Amy Lennox from Aberdeen takes to the stage in the role made famous by Dolly Parton in 9 to 5, she expects a very authentic reaction from audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh later this month.

The musical, written by Parton, is based on the 1980 fantasy film also starring Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlinson, who take revenge on their sexist boss.

Lennox singles out the home of the Grand Ole Opry with particular relish, anticipating the November 12 - 17 run at the King’s Theatre. The show will also be visiting the Edinburgh Playhouse from 26 November to 1 December and due to high demand, the show will return to Glasgow for an extra week, from 8 to 12 January.

"The whole cast are really excited to go to Glasgow, as the audiences are renowned for being great, and really enthusiastic.

"Going out in Glasgow will be crazy. You’re more sociable on tour because you’re in this kind of tour bubble. Working in the West End you tend to just go home after a show, but we’ve had lots of crazy nights out so far."

Lennox is not just stepping into Dolly Parton’s shoes in the musical comedy 9 to 5 – the Musical, but she’s also tasked with filling those famous bras.

"I was wondering, how are they going to do is, as I don’t have much to work with. But I’m corseted with a Wonder Bra sewn into a Double D bra, and also chicken fillets. A friend asked, 'are they real?' I said, 'of course not!'"

"Everyone has grown up with Dolly, she’s a real country girl," says Amy. "But I had never seen the film. It was a bit before my time, and I couldn’t even get my hand on it before the audition. I didn’t watch the film until after I got the role. I was very excited to get that part, although I was a bit worried, because I didn’t know what Dolly’s fans were expecting, I didn’t know if they were expecting a carbon copy. You can't imitate, you have to make it your own thing, and make it interesting."

Part of the joy of playing Dolly was perfecting the Tennessee twang, and accents are something that she has had a lot of experience with in her career so far.  

"I hardly get to use my own accent," she says. "I’ve done a lot of American, but it’s easier for Scottish people to do the American accent because we use our ‘r’ in the same place. I get to deliver some cracking lines with a southern twang." 

With 9 to 5 being set in the late seventies, there are plenty of wigs and costumes to have fun with.

"We had a great time with all the costumes," says Lennox. "I love the wigs; I wish my hair was like that every day. They pin curl your hair underneath, so you have curly hair when the wig comes off, and your hair doesn’t get dried out under the lights, so I really don’t mind wearing the wigs. It’s better than having my hair styled every day."

While she hasn’t had the chance to meet Dolly Parton yet because of the singers busy schedule, she is certain she will get the chance.

“I’ve heard that she’s really down to earth. She cooks her own fudge and hands it out to the cast in the green room. We have a projection of her during the show where she sings 9 to 5, and if she does come along to the show, she will always come onto the stage and perform instead of the film. So it will be a real treat for the audience of that particular show."

She says she gets on like a "house on fire" with her two co-stars, Natalie Casey and Jackie Clune. "It would affect the show if the chemistry wasn’t there, but we get on really well and share the same silly sense of humour."

Another star she gets to work with in 9 to 5 –the Musical is stage star Bonnie Langford.

“Bonnie Langford is a legend, she’s got such energy. She steals the show and in one scene she hangs upside down, belting out a song. She has the body of a sixteen year old, I asked her what she does to get her bum like that, and she just says “I don’t know, I don’t do anything!”

Amy, who grew up in Aberdeen in the Queen’s Cross area, knew from the age of 12 that she wanted to pursue acting. At Aberdeen Grammar School she performed in school musicals including Oliver and Annie Get Your Gun, and from there went on to hone her craft at the Guilford School of Acting.

Straight after graduating, she won the role of Leisl in The Sound of Music, auditioning in front of Lord Webber himself.  

"There was three of us left to audition in front of him, and we were all so nervous and shell-shocked that we had to be asked back to audition again. It was a really jammy first job, and it’s a nice production company to start working with as they look after you so well, they treat actors really well."

She co-starred alongside Connie Fisher, who won the role of Maria on a BBC talent show.  Would she have been tempted to go down that route herself?

"I was lucky in that I got parts early on, but there are lots of people who are brilliantly talented who don’t get the break and it becomes a Catch 22, because they need a part before they can get an agent," says Lennox.

"It’s a tricky one – it takes balls to go on these shows. It can be a great start but maybe it’s too much at once. In auditions everyone makes mistakes, but they are doing it in front of millions of people on television. It’s also fake and manufactured. I had a friend on the Grease programme, and they have on-sight psychologists to get you upset so you cry on camera."

In Amy’s case, her break in The Sound of Music "really got the ball rolling for me. As a start it gave me a repertoire in theatre, and I’ve mixed it up. You can get stuck in musical theatre, but it’s given me the freedom to do other things."

This has included a "Blink and you’ll miss me" part in the Keira Knightley film Never Let Me Go, as Jenny in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and parts in Sweeney Todd at the Royal Festival Hall and The Secret Garden for Ian Brown at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

In Legally Blonde at London’s Savoy Theatre she played the part of Margot, as well as Sheridan Smith’s first understudy. She stepped in to play Elle Wood while Sheridan took time to allow her voice to recover. Amy then reprised the role of Elle earlier this year for a two week run at Aberdeen’s His Majesty’s Theatre. When she next goes back to Aberdeen to perform, she says "it will be a bit weird because my parents have moved to Edinburgh now, so I will be in my home town, but I won’t be staying at the house."

9 to 5 – the Musical opened in Manchester in mid-October and Amy says the cast are "really getting into the swing of it now."

It’s the first time she has been on tour with a show, and she’s found that the audience reaction can be very different. "Sunderland was really quiet, they enjoyed it as far as I could see, but they were very different to Manchester. The big cities are great in terms of audience reaction. On a show with comic stuff in it, they’ll find it funny in one place, but we are waiting for a reaction in another and no one laughs!"

But with such demand for tickets in Scotland, it is set to be a roaring success.

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