Here You Come Again – Review by Brooks Appelbaum

Here You Come Again: How Dolly Saved My Life in Twelve Easy Songs is a charming ode to Dolly Parton, playing through August 27th at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT. Directed and choreographed by Gabriel Barre, the production is more than a jukebox piece, as it has a nicely delineated arc, though there is little suspense as to how the plot will turn out. Also, while most jukebox shows are biographical, here, Dolly (the stunning Tricia Paoluccio, who has also co-written the script) is a character (or a vision) who visits a certain very unhappy Kevin (Matthew Risch) at the beginning of the pandemic and helps him feel hopeful once again.

In the spring of 2020, Kevin has had to flee New York City, where he was trying to make it as a comedian, and move back into his childhood attic bedroom in Longview, Texas. His parents are sufficiently afraid of COVID-19 that they have no contact with him, leaving him surrounded by his Dolly memorabilia and decidedly lonesome and discouraged. A few more hard knocks are delivered by text and phone until Dolly comes to the rescue, using her signature humor, optimism, and, of course, music, to show him a different way to think about himself and his life.

The show’s weaknesses have to do with the script, which is so light as to rival the “soft and gentle” butterflies in one of Dolly’s early and enduring (as well as endearing) songs. Along with Paoluccio, director Barre and Bruce Vilanch wrote the book, and especially considering that there’s a delightful documentary about how Vilanch has supplied jokes for some of the funniest people in the business (Get Bruce), there’s not enough evidence of his humor here. This hampers Risch’s Kevin more than Paoluccio’s Dolly; it’s tough to play a downbeat character in an exciting way, and though Risch does his best, Kevin deserves better lines.

However, the two performers, the songs, and the fabulous musicians ultimately make for a fun and touching evening. Paoluccio is no Dolly impersonator: she embodies this role so fully that, in this intimate space, you feel as if you are just feet away from the icon herself. Physically she is perfection, and vocally—in her singing and speaking—one could close one’s eyes and swear you were hearing the woman herself. As for Risch, his Kevin becomes more likeable as the show goes on, and although Risch himself has played major roles in Broadway musicals, here he simply joins Dolly on a few numbers, providing sweet harmonies and just enough variation in the sound.

I wish the choice of songs had been a bit different; despite Dolly’s enormous catalogue of gems, several of the popular numbers included here were written by others (“Islands in the Stream,” “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That”) and they jar, somewhat, when set against her own flawless lyrics and tunes. However, most of the songs are Dolly’s own, and it’s a pleasure to hear them through Paoluccio’s gorgeous voice.

The band behind the show is superb: keyboard/conductor Eugene Gwozdz; percussion by Marty Wirt, guitar by Jeff Carlson, and bass by Sean Rubin. Anna Louizos’ scenic design is a delight: she has perfectly captured the crowded attic room of a Dolly-crazed young boy while giving both performers plenty of room to move. Bobby Pearce’s costumes for Dolly are fabulous, as are Bobby Zlotnik’s wig and hair designs. And Alyssandra Docherty has provided lighting that beautifully augments the songs in all their different moods, from the less well-known and glorious “God’s Coloring Book,” to the punchy “9 to 5,” to the creepy “Me and Little Andy.”

This is a sweet show for all ages, and though the story may not linger in the mind, the experience of being as close to Dolly as many of us will ever get is like waking up to “The Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

Here You Come Again continues at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre, 33 North Main Street in Chester, Connecticut through August 27. For further information, call: 860.873.8668 or visit: