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Dolly and Leisa at UCP: What a show!

W. Gibb    Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 00:00

MORRISBURG – Of course dynamite can come in petite packages!

Leisa Way as Dolly Parton literally erupts on to the Upper Canada Playhouse stage in a flurry of feathers, fringe and bejewelled finery. Way’s new show, Rhinestone Cowgirl: A Tribute to Dolly Parton, is designed to leave audiences amazed, hugely entertained, and clamouring for more.

It’s not just that Way has a voice with extraordinary range and power, she also manages to capture the essence of Dolly Parton, a star for over five decades.

"Doing research for this show," Leisa Way explained May 8, after yet another sold out performance at the Playhouse, "I came across over 60 hours of interviews and shows Dolly had done. Her personality has never changed. She is still the same kind, generous and sweet person she always was."

Way manages to convey these qualities throughout her new show, which is making its debut at the Playhouse in this initial sold out  run.

"We’ve actually cut the show by about 15 minutes since we opened," Way said. "What audiences are seeing now is the final, finished version. And audiences here at the Playhouse are truly genuine. We have been able to gauge how the show is going by their laughter and reactions to Dolly’s music and one-liners. They seem to love the show. And it’s been a blast."

The one liners, and  commentaries Way delivers throughout the Tribute ("You folks paid a lot to come here tonight, and frankly I need the money. It costs a lot to look this cheap!") are entertaining and revealing. However, the real magic lies in hearing Way sing Dolly’s songs.

Backed up by a terrifically talented band which includes Bruce Ley, Dave Wilson, Randall  Kempf, Kim Ratcliffe and Aaron Solomon, Way performs hits from every era of Parton’s career.

She sings pure country in a medley of Dolly/Porter Waggoner classics with Aaron Solomon. She crosses over, with Randall Kempf to country pop in the Dolly/Kenny classic, "Islands in the Sun".  She  injects new life into disco with "He’ll come again", then simply leaves the audience breathless when she sings one of Parton’s greatest song-writing triumphs, "I Will Always Love You."

Like many in the audience, I found myself deeply moved when Way and her band unplugged their instruments, gathered downstage, and simply harmonized on gospel. There was a timeless feeling about this musical moment in the show, a sense, for the audience,  that we were sitting on a porch in the sunlight, just listening to old friends sing.

This is a show that draws audiences in. Parton is a super star, of course, but Way succeeds in making us believe that she is also a great human being.

Leisa Way is spectacular in Rhinestone Cowgirl. All I can say is: What a band! What a show! What a lady!

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