Thursday, 3 August 2017

Album Review: 9 to 5 (2009 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“You got dreams he’ll never take away”

Upstairs at the Gatehouse will soon be hosting the London fringe premiere of 9 to 5 and with a neat serendipity, Megan Hilty is coming over to the UK for a short run of shows at the Hippodrome in September, Hilty having played Doralee – the role made famous by Dolly Parton – in the 2009 Broadway production. Plus, Alison Janney was in the cast too, so how could you not want to fill your life with her would-be future-Dameness via the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

An adaptation of the film by Patricia Resnick from her own screenplay, Dolly Parton’s score combined original songs with a smattering of tracks from her extensive back catalogue. But where, say, Cyndi Lauper managed to adapt her song-writing to the world of musical theatre in Kinky Boots whilst maintaining much of her character, Parton loses a little something in her journey. The songs here are perfectly serviceable but ultimately quite bland, especially shorn of any visuals.

That’s not to take away from Hilty’s work (excellent on tracks like ‘Backwoods Barbie’) or Janney’s general magnificence (best displayed on the persuasive ‘Around Here’) but the overall feel is just lacking in the kind of fun that characterises the musical. It is undoubtedly frothy entertainment but a number like ‘Heart to Hart’ (which was a showstopper in the hands of Bonnie Langford in the UK touring production) sinks like a soufflé without an effervescent performance to sell it.

Some cast recordings take on a life on their own on record and others remain frozen – a representation of what happened onstage but capturing little of its vitality. Much of the charm of 9 to 5 comes with the amount of irreverent, knowing fun which a director and cast can infuse it, thus undercutting the slightly trying-too-hard nature of the writing. So I remain in great anticipation for the forthcoming fringe production in Highgate but can’t really recommend this album for you.

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