Dolly Parton fans can rejoice as 9 to 5: the Musical has opened its UK tour in Manchester. Or can they? Dolly herself features in some pre-recorded footage - chatting away and telling you plot and character details. This annoying technique even spells out the names of cast members when they come out for their bows.
Based on the 1980 film of the same name, this musical's selling point is that the music and lyrics are by Parton herself. But fans also get to see Doralee Rhodes - the character Dolly played in the movie version - here winningly delivered by Amy Lennox. She is joined by Natalie Casey as Judy Bernley and Jackie Clune as Violet. Their bigotted boss Mr Hart is played by Ben Richards.
The plot is wafer thin - these three stereotypes - ballsy, not so dumb blonde and scorned ex wife team up to get revenge on their sexist boss. Cue the music - and the likes of "Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot" (pointing out the obvious.) There is the odd gem here - namely the title track and "Backwoods Barbie" but there are also many throwaway numbers which despite the best efforts of the cast remain forgettable. There are pauses which reveal glaringly that this is a movie turned musical as some of the numbers do feel shoehorned.
Richards has fun as the big bad boss and does far more with it than is on the page. Clune is brilliant and totally commanding as the headstrong Violet. Casey fares less well as Judy - she is a fine comedic actress but resorts to mugging and face pulling when heartfelt emotion would paint a clearer and less muddled picture of her character's back story. Lennox does more than impersonate Dolly and has great comic timing. Bonnie Langford may be lumbered with a tiny and underwritten role (Roz) but she runs with what she has and is excellent. But in a fairer world - she would have the role of Judy.
Kenneth Foy's set design is adaptable but relies too much on painted back drops - even a water cooler is flat and drawn. Yet a full blown car design is used for two scenes which feels a waste when the audience could have used their imagination.
Patricia Resnick's book never takes risks and some of it is quite slavish to the film but there are a few laughs. The ensemble lift the piece at times when it flags but what 9 to 5 lacks is the heart and soul of the likes of Sister Act and Legally Blonde.
Sure, it's not Shakespeare and was never meant to be. But miscasting and a few forgettable numbers mean that it's not quite as memorable or as fun as Dolly Parton wants it to be.