Joshua Val Martin reviews the UK premiere of Dolly Parton’s musical: 9 to 5
Three Stars out of Five Stars
I’m just going to come out and say it: I really enjoyed it.
The curtains of the beautiful Opera House theatre open and we are greeted by the Queen of Country’s face projected onto a giant flying clock. It really did set the tone. Based on the 1980 film of the same name, the musical follows three female office workers and their plot to turn the tables on misogynistic boss Franklin Hart Jnr.
Dolly Parton is responsible for the music and lyrics, fusing her country routes with a recent music theatre sound reminiscent of Legally Blonde the Musical and Shrek the Musical. Most of the songs are indistinguishable, with a few exceptions (namely Backwards Barbie and Get Out and Stay Out). Unfortunately, though the cast is no doubt exceptionally talented, too often even the best of efforts are unable to bring the score to life.
The audience demographic was largely older females who had come to see ‘our Dolly’ in action, and for them something about Patricia Resnick’s book really clicked. Perhaps it was the nostalgic references to 1970s pop culture, or maybe it was the underpinning feminist commentary, or- more likely- it was the perpetual, unashamed smut that punctuated the dialogue. The lady next to me, who reminded me all too much of my late Grandma, was to be found in hysterics every time the character of Judy referred to her ex-husband Dick.
It was at that point I realised I had to let go of my prejudices towards the blockbuster musical as a culturally-pillaging corporate-funded neo-liberal evil, and I came to understand that it was not really mine to criticise. 9 to 5 made sure everyone got their money’s worth with tight vocal harmony, cutting choreography, clean set changes and a show-stopping performance by Bonnie Langford. Even the moments that dived into the realms of pantomime, the audience lapped up. By the time the curtain call arrived and the song 9 to 5 was performed for the Nth time, I found myself on my feet along with everyone else, boogying away to the beats of Miss Dolly Parton.
Having said this, it cannot be ignored that the musical left a lot to be desired. The set design was at times lazy with the painted lift door looking distinctly amateur, Dolly Parton’s score was often unmemorable and the story itself felt a little hollow, lacking in any real emotional energy.
9 to 5: The Musical runs until 20th October at the Manchester Opera House