Country and Western comes to the West End as the great Dolly Parton finally gets her own jukebox musical – and it is exactly as camp as it sounds.
Taking its lead from Dolly Parton’s most famous tune, 9 to 5 the Musical runs headlong at office comedy kitsch. It’s set at the hellish headquarters of an awful conglomeration, the averagely named Consolidated Industries, which is run by the sleaziest of big cheeses Franklin Hart Jnr – a role comedian Brian Connelly positively revels in. Working his staff like a slavedriver, it’s little wonder that his underlings have it in for him.
Our office-floor heroines are his long-suffering employees. His secretary Doralee has endured year’s of his openly lascivious comments and can hardly take no more. Violet (Louise Redknapp) has been repeatedly passed over for promotion and new arrival Judy is panicking on her first day. All three fantasize about what it might be to rise up and bump off their boss – only for his one devoted member of staff, Roz (Bonnie Langford), who is deeply in love with him, to overhear their ambitions. When Hart disappears, it sends his staff into an almighty panic.
It’s hardly high art, but 9 to 5 the Musical is a helluva lot of fun – a piece with its tongue firmly tucked into its cheek. Parton’s music might not immediately strike one as the most obvious choice for a musical makeover, but there’s something incessantly catchy about her best tunes and her lyrics possess a frivolity that, counter-intuitively, suits a throwaway show. Woven into a story, numbers like ‘Heart to Hart’ and ‘Potion Notion’ become blissfully pat and almost absurdly silly. But she can still pack a small punch with songs like ‘Always a Woman’ and ‘Change It.’ There is, beneath the very superficial surface, a strong feminist streak to this easy-going entertainment.
Having been pruned and pared down since its initial Broadway run a decade ago, 9 To 5’s a far tighter tuner than it once was, and it’s proved popular with West End audiences, where it’s just announced a nine month-long extension at the Savoy Theatre, releasing another 300,000 tickets. After a long week working nine to five, what more do you need?