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Phil Hopkins
Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
@philhopkinsuk
12:00 AM 18th May 2024
arts
Review

Here You Come Again – Covid 19

 
For fear of sounding facetious, which is not my intention, the best part of Leeds Playhouse’s Dolly Parton ‘musical’, Here You Come Again, is the end.

That was the only time we saw Dolly, aka co-writer and leading lady Tricia Paoluccio, really strutting her stuff as country’s number one star, with backing singers and musicians, hair, dress and full throat as part of a concert-style line up. And they were up on their feet: everyone!

That was great, however, take that away, and I’m afraid to say that this play with music left me cold and my expectations drowning at the end of Act I.

Having purposely avoided reading too much about what I was about to see, my imagination had created something akin to the Jersey Boys, a biopic that would tell the story of Dolly Parton from her early days in Tennessee, to her triumphs at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Instead, I was transported back to 2020, lockdown and Covid 19, a period in time many people have sought to move on from because of its associations with mental health issues, depression, lost jobs, lives, vaccinations, and so on.

And, for that reason, this felt like a show that was marginally out of time in the same way that Everybody’s Talking About Jamie landed with a crash in the heart of the Trans debate, hit all the headlines and became an overwhelming success.

This time we were in Kevin’s lockdown bedroom at his mum’s house. His gay relationship with Jeremy is crumbling and they’ve taken time apart from each other. He’s in a mess and, as a devoted Dolly fan – his bedroom is a shrine to Nashville’s country queen – he calls on his fairy godmother while in a state of depression, and, in a puff, Dolly appears in his room!

And there the two of them stay for the duration of Act 1 which, for me, made this piece of theatre way too static, despite hearing some of Dolly’s greatest hits, which were still a highlight: Islands in the Stream, I Will Always Love You, Here You Come Again, and so on.

Steven Webb as Kevin was joyously camp and excellent and Tricia Paoluccio, using her wit and charm to put Kevin back on the straight and narrow, was superb: I just didn’t particularly enjoy the libretto and ‘vehicle’ used to tell the Dolly story. Way too niche. It will appeal to the LBGTQ community, which is great because Dolly is very much a gay icon, but outside that demographic, I think the show will have its limits.

Here You Come Again was originally written by two-time Emmy award-winning comedy and songwriter Bruce Vilanch with Gabriel Barre (who also directs) and Tricia Paoluccio, and has been adapted for the UK by British playwright Jonathan Harvey.

But when, as part of that re-write, references to some US country backwater have been replaced with comments about Halifax in West Yorkshire, and there are one liners like: ‘Covid 19 was like your life stopped: bit like when Eastenders went off air’, it didn’t work, for me at least.

Dolly’s America’s biggest country and western star. This isn’t Last Tango in Halifax! Bit disappointed this time round.

Here You Come Again
Leeds Playhouse – Courtyard Theatre
Until Saturday 8th June