Well, Hello Dolly!

It’s being reported widely how Dolly Parton saved the world premiere performance of her new out of town musical adaptation of the hit movie 9 to 5. As is the case with many shows just getting up on their feet, problems with scenery and changes are likely and can bring the proceedings to a screeching halt. However, many shows don’t have someone like Dolly who can keep the audience engaged with her genuine warmth and personality (not to mention voice). What a night it was too, considering Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman were all in attendance as well. Must have been some treat for the audience. Perhaps when this is done, Dolly should consider a one woman show?

Here is a recap of the first night performance from the KTLA Morning news blog:

She has doubtlessly performed on thousands of concert stages all around the world; but Saturday night at the World Premiere of the stage musical version of her very own “9 to 5,” Dolly Parton had to save opening night, by performing, completely impromptu, from the audience.

Parton, was among a star studded crowd; including fellow ‘9 to 5’ film cast members Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman; all of whom were on hand to see the Broadway Bound musical based on the movie from 1979.

Dozens of other stars were in Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theater, including, Gabriel Byrne, Tracey Ullman, Blythe Danner and Jason Alexander; when the show was stopped cold about 15 minutes into the performance by “technical difficulties.”

Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty; playing the roles Tomlin, Fonda and Parton made famous in the movie, were in the midst of a scene change, when the curtain came down and an announcer informed a stunned audience that the show would be stopped for a few minutes because of some technical problems.

As the minutes dragged on and on, a clearly restless audience was cheered when Parton stood-up right from her seat in the middle of the theater and said; “If they can’t perform the show, I’ll do some of it from right here.” Parton then proceeded to lead the entire audience in a sing-a-long version of the title song ‘9 to 5.’ That number, drew a rousing ovation from the crowd; but the delay wasn’t done and neither was Dolly.

Audience members could hear construction equipment like power drills and saws at work while Dolly continued to charm the audience with a talk about the origins of the musical show; as well as introducing her ‘9 to 5’ film co-stars. As the delay continued, Parton offered to take questions from the audience; and then asked if the audience would like for her to sing another song; ‘I Will Always Love You.’ Before beginning the second number Dolly told the crowd, “Maybe I’ll wait, in case things get screwed up again and I have to fill more time.”

After a complete set of about 20 minutes of both song and chatter the show resumed.

The audience remained in a great mood, and very open to the rest of the show, thanks entirely to Dolly and her efforts. The remainder of the musical went off without a hitch and was greeted with a long standing ovation.

However some theater veterans in the crowd could be overheard saying that the show will certainly need a few tweaks before a scheduled April 2009 opening on Broadway.

In my view, the show was about “85 percent there.” There seem to be a few “filler” numbers, and a few scenes that I think might make some people simply uncomfortable. Does Dolly have a sure-fire musical theater hit on her hands? I can’t honestly be certain. But there is no doubt that a potential opening night disaster was clearly diffused by a very talented and more than willing to “wing-it” Dolly Parton.