Review | ‘The Dolly Parton Story’ is all class

The Dolly Parton Story | De Parel | Until 9 Feb | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Night Owl Shows always deliver and last night’s opening of one of their production shows took my breath away; it was the incredible Dolly Parton Story.

I won’t stop raving about this show and clearly this is the one that stands ‘tall’ as one of the true gems in the varied 2020 Fringe World Festival program.

Stripped down with no sassy glitz (no huge boobs, wigs, exaggerated make-up) that you would normally associate with a Dolly tribute show, Hannah Richards stole the hearts of the packed crowd as she launched into a bevy of early Dolly numbers.

Puppy Love, one of Dolly’s first singles released when she was just 13 years old, was a brave choice and is a difficult number to sing, but with Hannah’s impeccable in-control vocal range this was just another walk in the park for her.

Sharing the stage with Hannah was her partner of four years, the amazingly talented Alex Beharrell. With a smile and perfect white teeth that could light up a night football field, he played that six steel-strung guitar like a seasoned pro. Dressed in an embroidered cowboy motif shirt complete with a 10-gallon hat, he looked every bit the part.

Biographical background slides helped in the storytelling department and was a great visual aid to Dolly’s story and to their selected playlist.

But the night clearly belonged to Hannah, who carefully guided us through a sterling catalogue of Dolly’s number one hits. Nine to Five, Love Is Like A Butterfly, Jolene, Last Thing On My Mind, they were all there, but the showstopper and the hardest song to sing live, I Will Always Love You, was the real ‘kicker’.

Hannah’s emotions complete with watery tears was an unforgettable and tender moment. I’d go back time and time again, just to see and hear her sing that torch song. Ably assisted on the lighting desk by Rhiannon Petersen and Iona MacInnes on sound, this is one classy show!

With performances nightly at 6.15pm until February 9th, this show deserves more than a five but see it for yourself, it will be a night like no other. On opening night, they (Hannah and Alex) received a well-deserved five-minute standing ovation.

See The Dolly Parton Story until Sunday 9th February.

Terry Larder is the founder of Club West (1989-2015) and in this role over those years was the director/producer/compere/drag performer. He is keen to foster goodwill and nurture new and emerging artists both on-stage and off.  He has been a writer for OIP since 2007, and has reviewed numerous shows as well as interviewed and written about Debbie Reynolds, Anthony Callea, James Morrison, Elaine Paige to name but a few. Terry also writes history articles for OIP and university publications. 

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