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Here You Come Again - musical review

There's no such thing as too much Dolly Parton, and this new musical provides the perfect dose. Here You Come Again is touring the UK before its West End engagement, giving the regional theatres the first taste. The comedy combines the biggest hits of the beloved country star with a witty and enjoyable energy that gives a simple story quite literally a new dimension.

In the middle of the 2020 Covid lockdown, everything feels like an endless despair for Kevin - stuck isolating in his childhood home with his parents, the attic becomes the space for dwelling on his rocky career and relationship. Plastered in posters and memorabilia, the Parton Palace offers a sense of comfort, with Dolly (Tricia Paoluccio) herself paying Kevin (Steven Webb) a visit to spread some wise words and the enthusiasm to power through. In a Mary-Poppins-esque style, she can only stick around until he has learnt all he needs to know about himself, though leaves a lasting legacy in her wake nonetheless.

An instant crushing of the 4th wall plays out as Kevin attempts to emulate his stand-up comic dreams - a brave start to then not pursue with a panto feel, but with just a few more dabbles by the duo throughout, it appears a useful tool for bringing the audience into the piece. The pandemic seems to have become a bit of an easy setting to narrate from on stage with a consistent setting and pre-made gags included, though the direction by Gabriel Barre and overall delivery of the script, written by Bruce Vilanch, Gabriel Barre and Tricia Paoluccio, brings enough to overcome this. There are a few moments of proper Dolly magic too: unexpected, yet wonderfully executed. Paul Wills brings glitz in the costumes and turns the space busy but nostalgic; a representation of the lost memories resigned to the loft, waiting to be rediscovered.

Whether you're a fan of the musical 9 to 5 or not so much, this bears no relevance to any expectations of this production. Featuring Dolly gives the jukebox leverage in that nuances of her character can permeate through the songs, giving a different sense of purpose and integration than they have otherwise. With a primary cast of just two, Steven's vibrant and joyously infectious vibes (no pun intended) playing Kevin bring the ideal level of sass and sparkle alongside Tricia's immaculate likeness to the real Dolly, vocally, and in mannerisms, particularly that laugh - almost believing she is the real deal - it seems the two roles could indisputably have not been allocated better. The chemistry between the pair creates the ultimate combination of fun with a meaningful message.

The beautiful speciality of live theatre is witnessing the unique performance in its glory with those sharing the room, mistakes and all. Being the ideal type of production to play them off well, it really just added to the humour and authenticity of the show (apart from the obvious ingenuine bits!) and was nicely recovered, especially given the demand of the double act to command the stage predominantly by themselves in this two-hander. Also appearing to enhance several tracks, it's refreshing to see the band (Jordan Li-Smith, Alex Akira Crawford, Ben Scott and Kevin Oliver Jones) getting to rightfully shine.

As Kevin shares his woes, Dolly provides insight into areas of her life too, the happiness and the difficulties. Her humble interpretation of her career sheds light on some amazing achievements and some big hardships to overcome. We can all relate to the narrative a little too in that there are times when it feels as if everything is falling apart, and we long for precious advice from someone who means a lot to us (and we probably also overbought toilet paper in lockdown).

Including some nods towards some of Dolly Parton's more interesting and haunting pieces, often with tragic tales, the pure belting of 'I Will Always Love You' and 'Me and Little Andy' add some balance to the setlist. While the obvious hits pack a punch - the '9 to 5', 'Islands in the Stream' and 'Jolene' renditions - it's fantastic to hear others like 'Two Doors Down' and 'Light of a Clear Blue Morning' get the vibrant and uplifting recognition they deserve. There's something for everyone: viewers with mild knowledge, avid listeners, or mega fans can all take away elements to be entertained by.

Leave any assumptions behind, as Here You Come Again is guaranteed to surprise you. It has cowboy hats and boots full of potential to be a great night of much-needed laughter and contentment at the theatre, with significance, but far from being heavy. And if you're ever in a tricky situation, remember to ask yourself - what would Dolly do?


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