THIS was the night of two shows in one: Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 musical on stage and the unwanted drama that made it run or rather over-run to 10.55pm.

Technical challenges in bringing a Broadway show with a “lot of stage traffic” to the narrow Grand Opera House stage meant yesterday afternoon’s tech rehearsal for the cast started later than planned after the get-in.

Needing a break to be in peak condition for opening night in turn meant the start was put back to 7.45pm, and the show certainly hit the ground running, opening with a lively, even frenetic ensemble routine to Dolly’s title track, her only chart hit to feature in this spin-off from the 1980 film Nine To Five.

Just before half-time, Mark Moraghan, on his debut night in the role of Franklyn J Hart, was supposed to leave the ground in a hoist but he remained grounded.

Oh dear, a technical hitch, and one that led to a delay to the second half. A delay that ran to an hour, by which time the show should have ended, but Bonnie Langford, already the star of the first half, lifted the mood with an impromptu apology and explanation from the stage apron, standing alongside Ambassador Theatre Group executive producer Adam Speers.

A short further wait, and 9 To 5 was clocking on for business again at 10.07pm – even if on-screen appearances by the divine Dolly P had to be replaced by voiceovers, but video Dolly will be back.

So apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the show for you? Well, it was still fun and will be even more fun now that the glitches have been eradicated with technical adjustments yesterday morning and a cast rehearsal in the afternoon.

As with the 20th Century Fox film, the fizzing script is by Patricia Resnick. The setting is still in 1979 (dodgy wigs for the male office workers et al) in a southern American office where sexist, egotistical, hypocritical, bigoted boss Franklyn J Hart (the slimy Moraghan) shamelessly blocks any chance of promotion for his female staff.

This sets him on a collision course with the highly capable but constantly overlooked Violet (Jackie Clune), his more-than-meets-the-eye secretary Doralee (Parton’s character in the film, lusciously played by Amy Lennox) and office newcomer and dark horse Judy (Natalie Casey).

Only office martinet Roz (Bonnie Langford) likes him, as she makes all too clear in a brilliantly executed stripping routine for Heart To Hart that is the highpoint of the show. Langford as you have never seen her before! Wow!

Parton’s new songs are workmanlike, serving the musical in storytelling mode, sometimes witty, sometimes punchy, rather than hits in waiting, but they are delivered with panache, especially by Casey in Judy’s big number, Get Out And Stay Out, while Lennox excels in Backwoods Barbie, the one other song from Dolly’s back catalogue.

Jeff Calhoun’s direction and choreography snap with purpose, lapping up the sauciness, balls and camp fun in Parton and Resnick’s show. Monday was a one-off, a triumph clutched from the jaws of disaster in extra time. Let’s hope the rest of the week goes like clockwork.


9 To 5: The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 3024.