Thursday, April 25, 2024

If you ask me… “Here You Come Again”

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Goodspeed Opera House Norma Terris Stage

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Dolly Parton Subject of Musical in Chester:

Here You Come Again”, the Dolly Parton love letter of a jukebox musical currently onstage at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Stage in Chester, Connecticut, is definitely one for the fans.  Subtitled “How Dolly Saved My Life in 12 Easy Songs“, the new musical is written by Bruce Vilanch with director/choreographer Gabriel Barre and Dolly impersonator (and star here) Tricia Paoluccio.  The slight plot, with fortune cookie wisdom and popular Parton songs shoehorned into the story, is almost completely forgettable but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a good time while sitting there.

Lumpish Kevin (a likable Matthew Risch) is middle-aged and depressed; a gay man who lost his job as a cater waiter/comedian at NYC’s famed Caroline’s comedy club and has moved back to the attic apartment above his parents’ home in Longview Texas.  His hedge-fund boyfriend has broken up with him and it’s May 2020 with the pandemic in full swing.  Kevin is in a deep funk.  His apartment is festooned top to bottom with Dolly Parton memorabilia including a door-size poster from which his heroine appears one day to offer her down-home advice for better living.  At the end of two acts you won’t be surprised that under Dolly’s patient tutelage, Kevin has found value in his existence with a new boyfriend in the offing.

Both Risch and Paoluccio are talented performers and share a warm chemistry together.  Paoluccio admits in her bio that Parton has been a “lifelong inspiration” and her impersonation, along with the appropriate vocal chops, does justice to the country superstar.  She also wears the singer’s signature flashy dresses like a second skin.  Risch, resembling a puffy Ben Afleck, is endearing as Parton’s sad-sack fan who harmonizes quite nicely on a few songs with Paoluccio.  Those songs include such familiar titles as “Jolene”, “9 to 5”, “Islands in the Stream” and the title tune.  But the barely-there plot strains when attempting to accommodate all 12 songs into Kevin’s predicament.  And Vilanch, long the go-to writer for quips and one-liners at the Academy Awards, comes up with precious few witticisms here.  By curtain, the whole enterprise may elicit a shrug of indifference.  It evaporates from the mind almost immediately.

The four musicians listed in the program sound like twice as many at the intimate Norma Terris under the able direction of Eugene Gwozdz. The detailed attic setting by Anna Louios is crammed with all things Dolly and Alyssandra Docherty’s lighting adds immeasurably especially for the musical numbers.  The costumes, by Bobby Pearce, get better for Paoluccio as the story progresses ending with a stunning blue fringe dress that suits the actress to a tee.  All said, no true Dolly Parton fan will be dissuaded by any hint of a negative review here.  Long may she reign.

Here You Come Again” continues at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Stage, 33 North Main Street in Chester, through August 27th.  For further information, call: 860.873.8668 or visit: www.goodspeed.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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