9 to 5 fails to impress

While watching Laurier Musical Theatre’s stage production of the play based on the 1980 film, 9 to 5, I wondered if I just didn’t like this kind of musical theatre.

9 to 5 left me in a state of numbness.

While watching Laurier Musical Theatre’s stage production of the play based on the 1980 film, 9 to 5, I wondered if I just didn’t like this kind of musical theatre.

That’s not to say I disliked this particular show, per se, but that it was completely representative of the artificial qualities that define the “dialogue-song-dialogue-song” subgenre of insufferable musical theatre.

A lot of it has to do with not just the writing, but the manner of delivery.

The jokes and story feel like they are catered to the whitest of the white bread.

The closest thing resembling a clever yuk taking the form of the dastardly boss Franklin Hart Jr. having a framed picture of himself on the desk in his office.

People laughed, but I honestly thought it was better handled in Sharknado, where its status as a joke was masked by the movie’s weird tone and the subtle background framing of the picture.

Comparably, when the play blatantly pauses for laughter, the joke falls flat as a result.

Still, it might have worked more potently if the actors weren’t constantly speaking and acting in that super-annunciated, very belaboured musical theatre way. I can’t call it bad acting because it’s just the way these plays must have their actors perform — more important they be understood than be nuanced — but it’s a style that distances me greatly from the proceedings onstage.

I can’t get absorbed into the story and characters if they all put emphasis on every word and flail their bodies about so that I have the privilege of understanding their state of being at every given second. It feels, for lack of a better word, stagey.     

This is compounded by the show being frothy to the point of worthlessness. There’s a lot of disposable nonsense I absolutely love, but it requires a sense of exuberance to reach the giggly heights that make that kind of delicious junk memorable. This play doesn’t.

There’s some big moments — the elaborate costuming of the songs “The Dance of Death,” “Cowgirl’s Revenge” and “Potion Notion” is a nice change of pace from the beiges and browns of the sets and the professional clothes of the employees of Consolidated Companies. Sadly, nothing in the show bursts with joy or honest-to-god feeling.

It feels like a low-budget rendering of a play made blandly acceptable in order to bring in as much of the Broadway audience as possible.

The low budget part can’t be helped, but maybe this shrug-worthy play wasn’t the best choice for an exciting show even if it was a good choice to produce an inexpensive one.

I didn’t come away with absolutely nothing, however. The “I Just Might” number is decently constructed, not because of any one great element, but because of how it comes together nicely.

The dancers deserve a lot of kudos for doing their best to inject this show with energy, and I smiled when the paper Hart Jr. was reading was The Cord.

The cast and the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves but I don’t think this is my preferred type of play.

The material was too mass-produced to tickle my artistic or indulgent side, and the presentation was too small-scale and sparse to transcend the source’s mediocrity.

It’s written by normal musical theatre-enjoying people and performed by normal musical theatre-enjoying people for normal musical theatre-enjoying people, and I don’t think I’ll ever truly be one of them.

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