The Dolly Parton Story is another production from the Night Owl Show team at theSpaceUK, and as always this company seems to know exactly what their Edinburgh Fringe audience wants as this show was another sell out.
Night Owl productions are a tribute to the music of artists, not look alike and sound alike attempts to mimic the artists, so if you are expecting a Dolly Parton clone then this is maybe not the show for you. If you however like the music of Dolly Parton and want to hear a singer who obviously shares your musical taste and has the vocal ability to do these songs justice whilst making them her own, then Hannah Richards aka Dolly Parton for the next 50 minutes or so could be the perfect show for you.
It takes more than just the ability to sing (or play an instrument) to do a Night Owl show as not only are the audience close enough to see and hear any mistakes, but you are also working with songs that are often very special to them and that is a big responsibility to take on. You also need to know how to connect to your audience very quickly, they have to like you for this all to work, and this audience certainly warmed to Hannah Richards on vocals and Alex Beharrell on guitar and some backing vocals.
The story of Dolly Parton herself is now one of almost country music myth and legend. Born January 19, 1946, in a one-room cabin on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in Pittman Center, Tennessee, Dolly grew up one of 12 children in a very poor but full of love family and those early years resonate all throughout her musical career, perhaps none more so than a song about a coat her mother made for her from pieces of rag cloth, “Coat of Many Colours” which Hannah more than brought to life tonight.
With over 100 of her songs charting, there can only be a very small selection of Dolly songs in this show, and many of the songs are the well-known huge sellers, but there are a few surprises, and as the title of the show suggests, we also get a very brief, but informative run-down of Dolly Parton’s life and career.
Many people (even some Dolly Parton fans) are always surprised that she wrote “I Will Always Love You” which was to become a global hit song for Whitney Houston. I have to admit to liking both versions, but they are both very different, and the original (without the vocal gymnastics of the Whitney cover) is simply a beautifully written song full of emotion, and Hannah’s interpretation of this song is worth the price of the ticket alone tonight.
Hannah and Alex have two very contrasting performance styles with Hannah favouring a more laid back style and Alex being very much in the “barn hall dance-raiser” style. On paper this should not work that well, but on stage it actually works perfectly and brings moments of humour and lightness to the show, and one thing (well one other thing) Dolly Parton herself has always been well known for is her sense of humour. Together in The Dolly Parton Show, Hannah and Alex are a very smooth team both working to make sure that their audience has a good time at their show.
REview by Tom King (c)2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH