Dolly Parton sashayed onto DTE Energy Music Theatre’s stage squeezed into a blue-silver sequined gown – but she didn’t need it. She sparkled louder than any shiny dress, like this one, which made her busty chest look like two disco balls.
And on her winding-down “Backwoods Barbie” tour, which brought the peppy, pint-sized singer (and a club-capacity gay gaggle) to Clarkston on Aug. 13, she brought her big voice. Her big laugh. Her big heels. Her big wigs. Her big hits. And, her big … .
Yes, there were many larger-than-her-cup-size moments for the queer-loving country crooner’s Michigan stop, and if you opted out of all the behemoth-ness, here’s what you missed:
You can’t top Dolly when it comes to drag – but you can try. And some proved they will always love her by attempting to be her. Two wannabes were Dolly-ed up, and one, with the pink jacket and leopard get-up, looked remarkably like the Smoky Mountain songstress’ ensemble on the cover of her latest, “Backwoods Barbie.” At least the 62-year-old knows her fan base (who, by the way, was overwhelming women, and gay men who wouldn’t have screwed up one word had they been part of Dolly Parton night on last season’s “American Idol”). After wrapping “Jolene” she suggested changing the title to “Drag Queen,” and then she sang a few lines: “Drag queen, drag queen, drag queen, drag queeeeen.”
The Corny Factor
As cheesy as it was to see Dolly turn ’80s staple “She Drives Me Crazy” into a twang-tossed number (and wrapping it with a hip-smackin’ throw-down), it was also non-debatably like listening to the Spice Girls: Not really rewarding, but always, for reasons we don’t wanna admit, an eleven on the one-to-10 Happy Scale. The only thing that could best that? Seeing her instrument assistant do the hoedown on “Thank God I’m a Country Girl,” where he two-stepped in suspenders, exposing his bare, chiseled chest. Ah, thank God I’m a (gay) country boy.
Whether performing new “Backwoods Barbie” songs, like the churchy showstopper “Jesus & Gravity” and sassy “Shinola,” or time-warping into her five-decade catalog for “I Will Always Love You” or set-launcher “Two Doors Down,” nothing was artificial about that voice – which at times could tug tears from even The Rock, sound like Little Girl Dolly (or like she sucked in too much helium) on “Puppy Love,” or just plain woo with an almost-acoustic “Little Sparrow” and an a cappela multiple-part harmony on “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” Her flawless pipes weren’t the only instrument she put to use; she played the acoustic and electric guitar, a rhinestone-encrusted autoharp, a bedazzled piano and a tin whistle and tambourine – like she didn’t have a 11-piece band behind her.
The (Self-Deprecating, Sex, Boob) Jokes
She’s recycled some of the same hokey jokes for years – “It cost me a lot of money to look this cheap,” but, like her, they never get old. Some of the biz’s best stage banter belongs to the quippy charmer, like when one fan shouted, “I love you, Dolly!” and she quickly zapped back with, “I love you, too! But I thought I told you to stay in the truck?” She also ripped on herself plenty of times, remarking that she wouldn’t run for president (because, “we’ve had enough boobs in the White House”) and asking the audience, when she returned for the show’s second set in a frayed lime-green gown: “Do I look like the Geico frog?” Even if she doesn’t know her reptiles (it’s a lizard, Dolly), she’s like a puppy – impossible to resist.