9 to 5 fails to impress

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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.


3 Responses to “9 to 5 fails to impress”

  1. Nicole Green Avatar

    I don’t understand how the Cord would write, edit and eventually print such a dissapointing article. This guy decided that it fails because HE doesn’t like the style of musical theatre and HE didn’t like the writing (the play wasn’t even written by students!). Yet eventually conceeds that others looked like they enjoyed it, just not him. Why couldn’t one of those people write this article? I came to Laurier because I was told that there was a great community here…but seeing this, someone who just wants to complain instead of celebrating the successes of this “small scale/low budget” production. Let’s try to lift each other up, or at the very least not tear eachother down.

  2. Thera Barclay Avatar

    This article is disappointing.

    There is a simple solution to the negativity and obnoxious criticism in this article: if you don’t like musicals, don’t go to a musical and review it. Reviewing of shows of any kind requires that the reviewer be simultaneously as unbiased and knowledgeable about the art form as possible. This article said a lot about what the author hated about the genre itself, and very little about the performance of the cast itself. If there is no way you will be able to give as unbiased a review as possible of a production because you loathe the genre, then don’t. It’s insulting to the cast, crew, and all those involved in the production.

    P.S. “Annunciation” refers to the angel Gabriel announcing the Incarnation to Mary (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/annunciation). Unless there is a Magnificat section in the middle of this musical, then I think you meant “enunciate”. Actors and singers are required to have particularly excellent diction in musical theatre so the audience can understand what they are saying/singing. I don’t believe the Virgin Mary is in 9 to 5.

  3. Jessi Wood Avatar

    It’s a bit of a cheap shot to come down on a musical theater production for being “low-budget” when it’s produced and run by university students. They’re likely working with in-house props and costumes, and nobody is getting paid.
    Your article doesn’t tell me much about the show; it tells me that you’re a bit of a jerk that doesn’t like musicals.

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