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Review | 'Dolly Parton: Workin 9 to 5' is a spectacular tribute

Dolly Parton: Workin 9 to 5 | Connections | til Feb 18 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Drag personality Barbie Q has delivered another spectacular production, following on from last year’s success as the overall Best Cabaret & Variety Award at Fringe World 2023.  A labour of love, Dolly Parton: Workin 9 to 5 is a sensational show that can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you know the music or not.  Don’t be fooled, it’s not simply an hour of country music – Barbie Q uses her passion for this project, constantly developing it into new forms and acts, to include favourite classics as well as new release.

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Dolly Parton: Workin 9 to 5 started with a bang – six immensely talented humans joined Donna Kebab and Alexas Armstrong in the 9 to 5 Broadway version of the show’s title track.  Think Book of Mormon meets Perth’s most dynamic queens and you’ll be close – this number is pure toe-tapping enjoyment.  However, if you’re left thinking this will simply be a show of dance and lip sync, you’re wrong. The audience plays a key roll during the show – encouraged to sing along, get up and dance, and positioned close to the action.  The fourth wall becomes non-existent, with the cast extending themselves well into the packed Connections Nightclub to take up every inch of space with the spirit of one Dolly Parton.

With a whopping 19 tracks during the show, there is not a second to let your attention lapse; Barbie Q and her team prove that you don’t need stunts, aerials and props to entertain a Fringe crowd, you just need to be present and enjoy.  Even during the serious moments, the sheer delight on Barbie’s face as she shares her love and passion for Dolly with the world is intoxicating.  Despite knowing only a few Dolly songs before the show (or so I thought), the infectious energy emanating from the stage overcomes any reservations in the space of a few songs.  Barbie Q takes the mic at a few key moments, checking in with the crowd, making us laugh, teaching us about Dolly’s illustrious career, and giving us a personal guarantee that even after 25 years in the industry she herself isn’t going anywhere soon. This breaks up the performances and re-aligns the audience as vital components for the show’s success.

I’d be remiss to glaze over the ensemble cast. Obviously, Barbie is flawless.  However, her success isn’t only based on her performance skills but her ability to cast a diversely talented troupe to back her up. Donna Kebab is mind-blowing as Joan Jett, performing a duet of Dolly’s cover from her recent rock album, and the two are electrifying on stage in their respective roles.  In another key track from the album Rock Star, which saw Dolly duet with her god-daughter Miley Cyrus, Alexas Armstrong channelled Miley’s unstoppable presence in a Wrecking Ball moment that was almost tear-jerking, the pair sharing their real-life love with us all.  Certainly not to be overlooked, the six sinful studs that backed up more than half of the show – Hayden, Jovi, Ben, Ethan, Alex and Caleb – presented one of the most diverse collection of dancers to take the stage at Fringe.  Each undeniably talented, they fluctuated from tie-touting office lads, to leather clad rock gods, to tap-dancing lotharios, to pom-pom wielding cheerleaders, with each transition flawlessly maintaining the energy and enjoyment of the show.  Caleb took his involvement a step further, with a hilarious Kenny Rogers persona that was a huge crowd pleaser.

With Dolly currently working on her Broadway musical and considering casting, she need look no further than right here in little old Boorloo – Barbie Q and her cast are the perfect fit for a Broadway production.  Someone needs to get Ms. Parton on the phone right now, before Barbie Q and her ensemble is inevitably snapped up elsewhere. Dolly Parton: Workin’ 9 to 5 is the pinnacle of Fringe, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more entertaining, diverse, and dynamic show on any Fringe program.

Dolly Parton: Workin 9 to 5 is running at Connections Nightclub until Sunday 18 February. Head to fringeworld.com.au for more.

Kiera (they/them) is a passionate arts creator and consumer, especially in the fields of cabaret and burlesque. Combining 20+ years of arts experience with numerous research and education-based qualifications, they enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences.

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