9 To 5 — The Musical
Savoy Theatre, London ★★✩✩✩
EVEN if country music queen Dolly Parton herself had been cast, she couldn’t have saved this vapid, musical version of her 1980 movie. Comedian Brian Conley certainly can’t, even though — or maybe because — as horrible boss Franklin Hart Jr his long-suffering secretaries tie him up in his own bondage gear like a suckling pig and suspend him from the rafters.
The show was a bit of a flop when it first landed in New York in 2009.
Presumably the producers of this West End version think the #MeToo movement makes its subject — male chauvinism in the workplace — a tale for our times.
Granted, its hard-working female stars, Love Island’s Amber Davies, Caroline Sheen (a temporary replacement for injured Louise Redknapp) and Natalie McQueen as ‘backwoods Barbie’ Doralee (the role played by Parton in the film), save Jeff Calhoun’s production from disappearing up its own crassness.
But the gags are all low-hanging fruit, with Conley’s trussed-up boss the nearest the comedy gets to a highlight.
And really, a story in which the female revenge is not that much cleverer than the stupidity of the man who prompted it is surely unworthy of today’s post-Weinstein conversation.
I know. It’s all a bit of fun and I should lighten up. Except, it’s actually not that much fun. Parton’s brilliant, Oscar-nominated hit 9 To 5 kicks off the show, but numbers such as Around Here and Hey Boss are nowhere near as good, even though they share the tempo and something like the melody of the title song.
Actually, Parton does appear, though only as herself in a video.
Meanwhile, Redknapp, who injured herself on the way to rehearsals, is due to return to the production in late March or early April. If I were her, I would stay away.