Who doesn’t love Dolly Parton? The Queen of Country is an absolute icon, with numerous hit songs within her decades-long career, her personality simultaneously larger-than-life and down-to-earth, meeting any superficial criticism with wit and humour. The joyous Dolly Parton Story recounts her humble countryside beginnings, her initial Nashville success with Porter Wagoner, and eventual solo stardom. But the narration of history and anecdotes is essentially a background for live performances of Parton’s back-catalogue.
Alex Beherall is extremely adept on the guitar, expertly replicating the various complicated melodies. However, Hannah Richards is the clear stand-out, her lovely singing able to emulate both the rambunctious and rowdy country hits like ‘Puppy Love’, and the melancholy tones of ‘My Tennessee Country Home’ or ‘Jolene’. Richards’ voice is lighter than Parton’s, but incredibly sweet, and rather than merely impersonating her songs like museum pieces, the pair’s energy make them come alive.
If, somehow, you don’t love Dolly Parton, this is not the show for you. Night Owl’s production is essentially a cover concert, and those disinterested in her life or music won’t find anything outside of that. Similarly, die-hard fans will likely already know her life story, the show only giving a fairly basic summary. It probably serves best as an introduction for newcomers, although fans will also be pleased with the chance to hear gorgeous live renditions of these famous songs.
The big issue, though, is the show is too short and too early. The performers do a decent job of energising the 12:30pm crowd, but a live music concert will always be far better suited for the evening. But this is not a fault of the show itself, which is an incredibly sweet tribute to a musical icon.
All in all, The Dolly Parton Story does exactly what you expect, but this simplicity is not a criticism. Much like Dolly herself, it is earnest and sincere, both rowdily fun and surprisingly beautiful, and you get exactly what you want from it. As too do they describe Parton, this show takes the music seriously, but never itself.
The Dolly Parton Story is on at theSpace @ Symposium Hall – Amphitheatre (Venue 43)
At 12:30 until August 25th
Book tickets here
Image: Night Owl Shows