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BRIGHTON FRINGE: The Dolly Parton Story: The Warren – The McElderry 

Reviewer: Simon Topping

By: Night Owl Shows 


After sell out shows at Brighton, Edinburgh, Perth and Adelaide Fringes, this entertaining duo returns to Brighton to take you on a chronological journey of Dolly Parton’s life and career, from post World War 2 life in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to her arrival as the Queen of Country. 

The first third of the show is dedicated to the rise of Dolly’s music career, with some lesser known songs on display for the uninitiated, including the infectious tune, Something Fishy and the sweet Puppy Love

We learn that life was tough from the start, Dolly being the fourth of twelve children. Thankfully her talent was discovered at a young age by her grandparents and by the end of her teens she had signed a $60,000 contract with the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the home of country music; which was a vast amount of money in the 1960s.

The second third blasts through some of her early number ones, the excellent Love is Like a Butterfly, the foot stomping Joshua and the first song we all sing along to, Jolene

With just a singer ( Hannah Richards) and guitarist (Alex Beharrell) on stage, this is a minimalistic show, no frills.  They let the Dolly songbook and their performance do the talking and they do it well.  Richards is not trying to impersonate Dolly, she has a beautiful soaring country voice of her own and uses it to full effect. Benarrell barrels through the tunes with passion and has a solid voice on the duets.  

As the story of Parton continues to unfold, the pair move into the more recognisable hits territory. Richards belts out I Will Always Love You, in a tempo somewhere between Dolly’s original and that of the iconic Whitney Houston cover. It really shows off her amazing range and wows the crowd as she hits the high notes.  

Transcending Country music and into the mainstream Dolly slowly becomes a US national treasure and the biggest hit with the audience comes in this, the singer’s more commercial phase.  The pop classic Nine to Five has the crowd singing and dancing in their seats, with great joy.

As we head towards the end of the piece it becomes apparent how enduring Dolly’s back catalogue is, as well as what a force for good the artist is too. 

Richards and Beharrell have a genuine affection for Parton and it shows in their enthusiastic performance.  This joy transfers to anyone listening and makes for a happy hour of music.  

Ironically, considering Dolly has penned over 3000 songs, the duo finishes on a track written by the Bee Gees, Islands in the Stream, although immortalised by Parton and Kenny Rogers. It’s a fitting singalong ending to a fabulous show that would not disappoint fans of Dolly or country music enthusiasts in general.      


Reviewed on 13th June  

The Reviews Hub Score

Foot-Stomping Good

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