It tumbled out of New York and stumbled to a regional tour of the UK. Adapted from the 1980 film and with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton herself, 9 to 5 is a fresh and enjoyable new musical which marries wit with warmth, comedy with colour and soul with style.
It's 1979 and sexism is as common in the workplace as the Dot Matrix printer. Three female employees strike out against the "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" of a boss who has wronged them, finding themselves on the wrong side of the law and the right side of morality. What opens as a commonplace workplace quickly develops into a fiercely funny tale of office and sexual politics.
As her recent drive for literacy has proven, Parton is recognises the importance of books... and book writer Patricia Resnick has written her an exceptionally funny one. The script is crisp, the characters well developed and the humour perfectly pitched, ably delivered by a wonderful cast with a keen timing for comedy.
But what is a comedy without the comics to perform it? Here, the cast are Dolly’s greatest asset, with wittily droll performance from Natalie Casey, a sweet yet sophisticated turn from Amy Lennox and a genuinely astonishing number from Bonnie Langford.
The surprising irony of 9 to 5 is just how unmemorable its lyrics and music are. Here, even the disco classic title number is badly punctuated with dialogue and has lost all of its Dollywood pizzazz. Fun and poppy as its numbers may be, the show's songs blend into a somewhat sentimental reel of songs of strong and independent women fighting against bigoted, bigoted men. Whilst the show-tunes check in, they never really manage to put in a hard day's graft.
As a consequence, 9 to 5 is musically forgettable and rather like a newly bleached head of hair: it’s bright, sassy and fun for the moment but fade from your memory as quickly as that new Nice ‘n’ Easy ‘do that you’ve lacquered into submission.
Despite these issues, 9 to 5 remains a thoroughly enjoyable piece of musical theatre, bolstered by an exceptionally talented and funny cast and a design that is executed as beautifully as Dolly's latest enhancement.