Writer: Patricia Resnick
Music: Dolly Parton
Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Reviewer: Ruth Lovett
The Public Reviews Rating:
It is the one a lot of people have been waiting for; the eagerly anticipated UK tour of a new musical based on the 1980 film of the same name. With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton herself, fans and members of the public have been looking forward to what promises to be a fun packed entertaining night.
From the start we are treated to Dolly herself on a large circular screen over the stage, setting the scene and providing some narration in a very informal style. Opening with the iconic number, which is the only way to start, that this is where the show peaks and does not reach this high again. The band, however, are marvellous and expertly lead by Mark Crossland.
The book is poor and at times, lazy. No time or effort has been made to give the characters more than one dimension and plays too much to the stereotypes of older widow in an office of younger women passed up for promotion – Violet (Jackie Clune), a young pretty busty blonde who everyone assumes is sleeping her way to the stop – Doralee (Amy Lennox – played by Dolly in the film version), and a divorcee who is entering the world of word for the first time – Judy (Natalie Casey). The jokes are too obvious and contrived and lacking ingenuity. Although it largely sticks closely to the film, more work could have been done to adapt the story to suit the stage better as has been seen with recent successes such as Sister Act. The songs are meant to push the story on but at times appear to have been slotted in with little thought given to their purpose. Unfortunately, apart from the title track the songs are largely forgettable.
The cast save this show and Jackie Clune’s Violet embodies the strong independent woman who should have progressed further in the workplace if not for the sexist chauvinistic boss, Mr Hart (Ben Richards), who all the staff despise except his adoring assistant Roz (Bonnie Langford). Langford arguably has some of the best lines in the show and demonstrated her flexibility with aplomb. Richards’ portrayal of Hart is suitable slimy and he appears to revel in the role. Casey is a little disappointing as Judy as she persists in mugging and pulling her face as well as dropping her voice in to a low register for comic affect but it is unnecessary and distracting. However, Lennox’s Doralee is a real delight. Her solo number is true Parton and beautifully performed. The ensemble work tirelessly throughout and certainly keep the tempo up.
Overall, this leaves the audience wanting more – more Parton classic type songs, more depth to the plot and the characters, and a bit more oomph with lots of deep belly laughs. Entertaining it is but not the high octane fast paced show it could be.