Dolly Parton fans will no doubt hate me for saying this however I am going to do it anyway. 9 to 5 is one of the worst new musicals that I have ever seen. I can fully see why it flopped on Broadway and I am amazed that it has been given the opportunity for a major UK tour.
The score is (with one exception) without any tune that will linger in your mind. The title song is a classic but nothing else in the show has anything like that quality. Given how prolific Dolly has been, it is incredible that she could not find or write any better material for her debut as a musical theatre composer. The lyrics were, for the most part, inaudible. The sound balance was completely off meaning that the vast majority of the words were lost. From what little I could make out, they were not memorable in the slightest. So I am glad that I only heard part of them.
The script and characterisation is wafer-thin. There are one or two genuinely funny moments - but the rest of it is lame at best. The direction is pedestrian and the design workmanlike. It says much about the production that the biggest reaction comes from the projection of Dolly herself belting out the title song as part of the curtain calls.
In all honesty, if this project did hot have Dolly's name attached to it, it would never have made a regional try-out in the US let alone a Broadway production or national tours of the US and the UK.
I must extend some kind words to the performers who work their little socks off with this mediocre material. The central trio of Jackie Clunes, Natalie Casey and Amy Lennox do their very best to provide some personality and charisma to the piece. The rest of the company also work very hard - not least Bonnie Langford who shows more of herself that I ever thought possible (or desireable). However there are times when I got a sense that they were embarrassed to be on that stage.
The audience around me were clearly not sharing my misgivings about the production or the piece itself. There were clearly some die-hard Dolly fans (including those who had dressed up as their idol) and many others who clearly engaged with the show. However superficially shiny and loud the production might be, no amount of shimmer can disguise a weak score and script.
It is an empty, plastic piece of theatre that does a dis-service to the talent of the cast on stage. People may be enjoying it - but when things like this clog up theatres, I cannot see this as anything other than a bad thing for the future of musicals in the UK. There is plenty of scope for a feel-good, fun musical - Legally Blonde gets it right, Mamma Mia gets it right. 9 to 5 gets it completely wrong.