MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

9 to 5: The Musical – Alhambra, Bradford

Reviewer: Christopher Holmes

Book: Patricia Resnick

Music and Lyrics: Dolly Parton

Director: Jeff Calhoun

Girl power is the order of the day at the Alhambra in Dolly Parton’s crowd-pleasing musical 9 to 5. Devising a plan to kidnap their misogynistic boss, a trio of all signing, all dancing heroines try to implement progressive changes in the workplace by advocating equal pay and sticking it to the man. You can forgive the themes from being a little archaic but this message of mass market feminism is contradictory and the gender stereotyping is the direct antithesis of the recent #metoo movement.

There is no subtlety here and, although the actors all play with commendable gumption, the characters, albeit exaggerated, are very two dimensional, and the whole thing seems contrived and confusing.  The energy from the cast is good. Scene changes are slick and well choreographed, and there are moments of beauty in the musical staging. The real star though is Tom Rogers’ clever design. He really captures the in-your-face themes with his use of colour making the whole thing look visually arresting. Really stunning.

Dolly unleashed 9 to 5 on to the stage in 2008 (she even makes an appearance via a gimmicky pre-recorded video) and it is based on the 1980 film of the same name. Fans of the Queen of Country will know that her music is quite often earnest, sincere and heartfelt. Don’t be fooled though, this is not a jukebox musical featuring her greatest hits, aside from the title song what is left is weak and forgettable – possibly not a bad thing as quite often the band over-powers the singers, meaning that some of the lyrics are lost.

There are stand-out performances notably Julia J Nagle who plays Roz, Mr Hart’s executive assistant. She clings on to Hart’s every word, not hinging on the malfeasance of the sexist egotistical hypocrite. Instead she swoons over him around the office and pitches her character perfectly, especially in the song Heart to Hart which is about as subtle as a sledgehammer but leaves the audience wanting more.

There are moments of joy in Patricia Resnick’s rip-roaring script which has been cleverly understood and, at times, exaggerated in Jeff Calhoun’s direction. Ibsen or Chekov this is not, but if you’re looking for a grilled cheese served lukewarm from the office canteen then you’ll be in for treat.

Runs until 11th September 2021

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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