She Has Two Big Advantages, You See

We’re all aware that Dolly Parton has two big assets, as Roger Whittaker sang in “Barroom Country Singer”. But they aren’t the ones you might think of: they are talent and brains. Last night we saw both on display when we went to the Hollywood Bowl, where we saw one of the most talented entertainers to come out of Nashville, Dolly Parton. I don’t use the word “entertainer” lightly, for Dolly is one of those rare artists that does more than just perform a concert: she provides an entertaining show. Dolly relates to her audiences as if she was just sitting down with you—she tells stories, she jokes, she flirts, she plays. It all comes together for a wonderful evening.

This performance was Dolly’s fifth show in her “Better Day” tour, and was her second night at the Hollywood Bowl. Although I didn’t keep a song list, the show included a number of songs from her new album (“Better Day”), including “Together You and I”, “The Sacrifice”, “Better Day”, “Let Love Grow”. She also did a number of her past hits, as well as covers of songs such as “Help”, “River Deep Mountain High”, and “Stairway to Heaven”. It was a very enjoyable music mix, designed to alternately energize the audience as well as giving them moments to breathe.

I was truly impressed with Dolly. Not only is she a great singer, but during the show she played a wide variety of instruments: guitar, banjo, autoharp, dulcimer, harmonica, piano, flute, saxophone. In today’s world of entertainers who tend to live through the tabloids, she’s a person who got where she was through a combination of talent, hard work, and business acumen. Not a bad role model, especially in today’s Country marketplace.

Sound quality was good at the back of the bowl, although physics was its usual bitch: you would see Dolly’s mouth move, and fraction of second later you would hear the sound. It was due to the difference between the speeds of light and sound, and was initially disconcerting. The lighting was strong and intensive, including loads and loads of moving lights, LED lights, LED combo lights, and a full display screen used to enhance and energize.

If there was any problem with the show, it was the audience. Specifically, the few idiots who ignored the “No Smoking” signs to light up during the show… and I’m not talking tobacco. Something stronger…. which kept triggering a headache for me and actually hurt my enjoyment of the show. It made me think of one of the first shows I saw at the Hollywood Bowl—Peter, Paul, and Mary back in the late 1970s, when Paul Stookey came out during intermission and did “4D” (“Don’t Do ‘Dat Dope Anymore”). I have no problem with folks who want to toke in the privacy of their home. But at the Bowl? C’mon folks, think of your neighbors.

Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Today brings “Shrek” (July 24, Pantages Theatre, ticketed). July closes with “The Sound of Music” (July 30, Cabrillo Music Theatre, ticketed). August brings “The Boys Next Door” at REP East on August 13, and “On Golden Pond” at the Colony Theatre on August 20, and possibly the last Summer Evening at the Huntington with the Quarteto Neuvo on August 27. September currently only has one weekend booked: “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” at REP East on September 24; October shows “Shooting Star” at the Colony Theatre on October 1, “Annie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on October 22, and (hopefully) Bernadette Peters at VPAC on October 16 (rescheduled to March 2012). October will also hopefully bring The Robber Bridegroom” at ICT. Of course, I expect to fill some of the weekends in August, September, and October with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.