l-r: Stephanie J Block, Marc Kudisch, Allison Janney, and Megan Hilty
Photo: Craig Schwartz/CTG 2008
What a way to make a musical. On the one hand, Dolly Parton and Patricia Resnick’s adaptation of Parton's best known film, 9 to 5,
is not completely dreadful. On the other, it isn’t exactly pleasant or entertaining. The world premiere is now on stage at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles with a substantial cast, which includes Meghan Hilty in the Parton role, Allison Janney in the Lily Tomlin role, and Stephanie J Block in the Jane Fonda role. All stage veterans, they are joined by Marc Kudisch, as their lecherous boss Franklin Hart. However, despite this talent, which does result in a few high-wattage solo numbers, the work as a whole is a rather limp and needlessly faithful re-enactment of the film. Now I will admit that I am a fan of the original having been exposed to it more times than I care to admit as a teenager given its popularity amongst my younger sisters. (You do remember VHS tapes don't you?) However, although all the gag lines are meticulously preserved, the comedy has not always survived. Arguably, the feminism hasn’t quite made it either – who knew Violet Newstead would seem so much more sympathetic to an audience when given a younger love interest?
Of course, at the center of this soon-to-be flop is Dolly Parton. I am a fan of Parton and her status as a songwriter and performer are already legendary. Her success with show tunes, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the songs are dull and never really build to something larger. Take note - just because you look like a production number doesn’t mean you know how to write one. There are many attempts at homespun charm but Parton herself has much more aplomb at pulling this off. Still, I imagine there is some sense of nostalgia that will appeal to a certain audience, but I’m not sure there are enough of those people to keep this afloat after 9 to 5
moves to Broadway in the spring. Of course, that’s what New York really needs right now, another Young Frankenstein
Labels: LA Theater Reviews