9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL | London, New Wimbledon Theatre

From the opening dick joke to the closing refrain, 9 to 5 the Musical is panto transplanted to the Deep South. Or at least, somewhere in the USA: the multifarious accents of the actors do little to place the musical in any specific state, or indeed continent.

The intention of the musical seems to be to rebrand the eighties hit movie for inclusion in the modern canon of high-gloss feminist entertainment. Yet there’s something regressive about a number in which a male boss makes crass thrusting gestures towards a secretary, with her face hidden and her derrière thrust towards the leering audience. There is the sense that this is a Carry On film that has been rapidly plastered over with feminist talking points.

The score, a mixture of extant Dolly Parton songs and new compositions, may delight ardent Dolly fans. But the lyrics are expositional rather than amusing, and the only standout tune is referenced in the title. Parton herself makes an appearance via video; but musical theatre as Zoom meeting does little to buoy the low energy of the show.

It’s strange to recommend that 9 to 5 the Musical needs an injection of camp, when it features tearaway eighties business attire and a businessman dangling from the ceiling in fetish gear. Yet there is something fundamentally earnest about the show. Camp is many things – most of them embodied by Dolly Parton – but, like Dolly herself, camp is clever.  9 to 5 the Musical, sadly, is not.

Playing 19 Oct – 23 Oct 2021 at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

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