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Dolly Parton Brings Beautiful Camp to the Hollywood Bowl: Review

Dolly Parton Brings Beautiful Camp to the Hollywood Bowl: Review

The lights on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl dimmed and the crowd began to quietly roar as the unmistakable silhouette -- see tiny waist and legendary boobs— of Dolly Parton appeared at the back of the stage holding a fiddle. Dubbed the “Dollywood Bowl” for the weekend, the country / bluegrass / pop sensation took the stage this past Friday and Saturday wowing near capacity audiences that included celebrities, country music and bluegrass aficionados, Dolly-look-a-like drag queens and a massive contingent of her LGBT fans.

TracyEGilchrist

The lights on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl dimmed and the crowd began to quietly roar as the unmistakable silhouette -- see tiny waist and legendary boobs— of Dolly Parton appeared at the back of the stage holding a fiddle. Dubbed the “Dollywood Bowl” for the weekend, the country / bluegrass / pop sensation took the stage this past Friday and Saturday wowing near capacity audiences that included celebrities, country music and bluegrass aficionados, Dolly impersonators and a massive contingent of her LGBT fans.

 

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For 2.5 hours on Saturday Parton -- clad at first in a form-fitting white dress with sparkling fringe and later a yellow pedal-pusher length pantsuit with more sparkling fringe -- held the packed-to-the-walls Hollywood Bowl audience enrapt as she sang, fiddled, tickled the ivories, plucked the banjo, told tale of her humble beginnings and cracked self-reflective jokes laden with the irony that she is at once fully aware of her camp sensibility and fully sincere about it.

A veritable national treasure whose big heart is matched only by her cup size Parton played to thousands of willing acolytes under a star-lit Hollywood sky performing everything from her signature songs including “Jolene” and “Nine to Five,” to new tunes off of her latest release Better Day, to a bluegrass / gospel medley that included The Beatle’s “Help,” Collective Soul’s “Shine” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

Between her mega-hits and the crowd-pleasing cover tunes like “Walkin’ on Sunsine,” “River Deep Mountain High,” and “Son of a Preacher Man” (for which Parton wielded a saxophone) Parton did what she does best -- she regaled the audience with her history of growing up dirt poor but rich in love at the foothills of Tennnessee’s Smokey Mountains. Her most affecting moments included those odes to her homestead and to her “mama and daddy.”  A down-home section of the show included a bare-bones rendition of her beloved classic “Coat of Many Colors”  along with “Appalachian Memories,” “Tennessee Mountain Home” and the a cappella “Precious Memories.”

 

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If shimmying from one end of the stage to the other and wielding no fewer than eight instruments at the tender  age of 65 weren’t enough, Parton at one point devoted a rap to her Joyful Noise movie costar Queen Latifah.

She also peppered her chitchat with plenty of lovingly self-aware quips about her appearance. It’s one of Parton’s mantras to point out that it takes a whole lot of money to look as cheap as she does, and she got plenty of mileage out of skewering her signature look right down to joshing that she broke her hair trying to get the saxophone strap over her head. At one point the multi-Grammy winner even gave a shout out to her plastic surgeon, who was presumably in the audience.

Parton delivered a performance so rife with high camp yet mixed with utter sincerity that by the time she got to her haunting a capella version of “Little Sparrow,” fans could be seen dotting their eyes for tears throughout the Bowl.

 

A living, breathing anomaly who is as passionate about her spiritual / gospel roots as she is about her lip gloss, Parton’s show amounted to 150 minutes of palpable light and life that certainly affected her fans even as the throngs shuffled out of the Bowl spilling into the streets of Hollywood almost collectively humming “Jolene.”

Don’t miss Dolly Parton’s Better Day tour. Tickets are on sale on her official website.

Find out more about the Hollywood Bowl here.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.