Her voice soaring, hitting all the electric high notes that encapsulate the song, Hannah Richards’ performance of I Will Always Love You set the stage alight at the opening night of The Dolly Parton Story in the ornate surrounds of De Parel Spiegeltent.
A hit at both the 2018 and 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, this was the first performance of the show in Australia – English songbird Hannah Richards provides the vocals, while Alex Beharrell accompanies her on guitar and lends his vocal support, never more so than in the show stopping finale, Islands in the Stream.
On a stark stage, with a video screen backdrop showing still photographs from milestones in Dolly’s life, the duo take the audience on a memorable journey from Dolly’s very humble beginnings – a one room cabin in Little Pigeon River, in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee – through her performances with country music legend Porter Wagoner on his seminal television show, her crossover from country to pop – the first female country singer to successfully do so, paving the way for the many that followed, including such luminaries as Taylor Swift, to today when Dolly is one of the most recognizable and prolific singer songwriters of all time.
Both Hannah and Alex chat with the audience between songs, relating little anecdotes of Dolly and events in her life that lead seamlessly into the next song, while cajoling the audience to join in the chorus and inviting them up to dance.
Hannah Richards has a remarkable voice and she employs it to wonderful effect, effortlessly moving from poignant ballads to some of the more rollicking, raucous and foot tapping songs from Dolly’s incredible repertoire of more than three thousand compositions.
This is a show to be savoured and begs for me to go back for a second helping. One of the best shows I have experienced at the festival and not to be missed.