Despite humble beginnings, Dolly Parton has done it all in the entertainment world. Yes, there’s that voice of country heartbreak, but Ms Parton has also shown herself to be a shrewd businesswoman, with a knack for wisecracks to boot. I was interested to see what Double D – “a comedic tribute to the queen of country music” – would reveal about such a multi-faceted performer and person.
Double D refers to Dolly (Eloise Cassidy) and her campy cowboy sidekick Diablo (Max Bimbi). The Dolly of this show looks the part in her jeans and gingham-trim shirt with an abundance of tassels, and a blonde wig as big as Texas, err, Tennessee.
Through well known Parton songs: 9 to 5, Coat of Many Colors, Backwoods Barbie, and Joelene, Cassidy faithfully recaptures the sound and look of young Dolly. The guitar accompaniment has just the right amount of twang, and the keyboardist drives proceedings along crisply, ably contributing backing harmonies. A smile exchanged between the musicians part way through was a cute moment that showed there’s a lot of love for Parton’s music in the performance.
Diablo is here for a frivolous touch that I found didn’t compare favourably with the wit of the real Dolly. As he flounces around the stage pulling focus, cabaret fans may find the risqué comedy component of the show unable to compete with the musical offerings.
This choice could work if it aided the storytelling, but it is more of a distraction from it. We’re on more solid ground when Diablo gets his moment to shine in the duet Islands in the Stream. The quality of the musical performances largely compensates for the limitations of the writing.
After being told a few times that there’s more to Dolly than the wig and boobs, there’s a bizarre – and not that respectful – finale. However, not everyone cares about such things; an appreciative opening night audience laughed heartily, and many gave a standing ovation.
Strengths of Double D lie in its musical talent and the selection of some interesting real-life stories. If the show chooses to incorporate more of these from its rich source material, it will appeal more broadly as a result.
Melbourne Fringe: Double D The Dolly Parton Cabaret
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 30 September 2015
Season continues to Sunday 4 October 2015
Image: Max Bimbi and Eloise Cassidy in Double D The Dolly Parton Cabaret (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte