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REVIEW | Here You Come Again - the Musical - LEEDS PLAYHOUSE

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The UK Premiere of Dolly Parton's fully authorised musical is currently playing at the Leeds Playhouse, before hitting the road taking it across the country. After success across the pond, Here You Come Again comes to the UK. Originally written by Bruce Vilanch with Gabriel Barre and Tricia Paoluccio, the show has now been adapted for the UK by Jonathan Harvey, with direction by Gabriel Barre and choreography by Lizzie Gee. Here You Come Again has the much loved songs that interlinks into a beautifully heartwarming yet funny story. 


Set in 2020…yes covid and lockdown, Kevin (played by Steven Webb) a stand-up comedian who has split from his boyfriend Jeremy, is spending his quarantine in the attic bedroom of his Yorkshire childhood home. With all of his childhood belongings with him, including his old-record player and Dolly albums, he thinks that as Dolly's music has helped him out in the past, how can she help him now. But then, in a fantasy version, Dolly (played by Tricia Paoluccio) appears and helps Kevin in the hardest of times. 


Here You Come Again runs for 2 hours and 20 minutes including an interval. Like always, my reviews are 100% honest and I will always justify my ratings, thoughts and feelings, always giving constructive feedback and my opinions are my own. 


Written by Bruce Vilanch with Gabriel Barre and Tricia Paoluccio, and adapted by Jonathan Harvey, the writing by Vilanch, Barre and Paoluccio have created an excellent piece of theatre. The trio writes some humorous moments throughout the show, and create a way of the show being in two different ways, with written moments that are directed towards the audience and then you're watching a show, the dialogue towards us feels like your in Kevin's stand-up comedy show, which is engaging in an instant and I liked how it makes you laugh and gives you the set up of show. The show's story is heartwarming, with many laughs as well, and the writers have kept it simple, as it is a story that doesn’t need to be overwritten. The trio's decision to write Dolly Parton to resemble a fantasy version of the real Dolly, it’s a decision well made which feels right, and gives the feeling that Dolly has more characterisation. What we do get from the script is facts on Dolly’s life and music which you may or may not know already. The writing is very admirable.


Harvey adapts the original script well, by changing the character of Kevin being British, the script has mentions of things surrounding the pandemic such as clap for carers and singing happy birthday while washing your hands, making the audience laugh out loud. Luckily Harvey doesn’t overload the references and they are naturally written into the script, and don’t feel forced. Harvey does a terrific job on adapting the original script for UK audiences, I really do admire how the trio have allowed and made the choice of adapting the script and change for the UK production, by it allows various productions of the show to feel universal, Harvey really does help bring out the heart warming message of the show and audiences seem to love it. 


Here You Come Again is directed by Gabriel Barre. Barre directs the show really well. The direction isn’t complicated, and easy to follow. Barre’s direction isn’t all over the place and we receive some delightful moments between Dolly and Kevin. Barre’s direction feels very guided and plays on the fact that Dolly is written as a fantasy version of the real Dolly. Barre also plays on the scripts direct audience dialogue with directing Kevin with opening dialogue like a comedy set, and giving the direct audience moments the full love they should have and not having the cast just looking at the audience. Barre’s direction has magic/illusions too, Barre works with illusion designer Richard Pinner to help direct Pinner’s clever and skilled illusions, yes, admittedly the illusions were so unexpected, but then on the other hand they surprisingly fitted the piece, and were greatly executed by Tricia Paoluccio. Again the illusions add and create a fantasy type version for the character to play on. Barre’s direction really does bring the whole audience into the show, having cast members walking through the audience and making certain numbers feel like you're at a concert.


Most people will be aware of a lot of Dolly Parton’s songs and they are loved by a lot of people around the world. The show uses Dolly’s music extremely well, giving you an opportunity to hear some of the iconic songs in one show. In Act 1 we get most of the upbeat songs and Act 2 we get the slower songs, to me it works, and to me it feels the show plays on the slower songs more to keep with the storyline theme.


Here You Come Again has two main characters, with the understudies being backing vocalists and playing smaller parts. I really did like how the show uses the understudies in this way, it's really nice to see. 


Tricia Paoluccio plays Dolly, Paoluccio is awe-inspiring throughout, Paoluccio is a great performer, with great stage presence and a really good connection with Kevin (played by Steven Webb). You can tell Paoluccio is natural, while also Paoluccio makes you feel you're not watching someone else being Dolly from the vocals to the spoken dialogue, you could be watching the real Dolly. Paoluccio shows Dolly’s sentimental side throughout while also swiftly transitioning into the Dolly Parton icon we know and love, it’s a performance that deserves a lot of applause. 


Steven Webb plays Kevin, Webb is excellent, from being funny to also being very likeable. Webb really shows Kevin’s need for wanting Dolly’s help. Both Webb and Paoluccio are a great pair to watch, and suit the roles. Webb's opening dialogue to the audience is great and is well delivered and is received well by the audience. Webb's acting choices are good and Steven Webb is a delight to watch. 


Lizzie Gee’s Choregraphy has plenty of country influences to it. It's full of energy and looks fantastic on stage. To support this the set design, by Paul Wills, is great and gives the cast a great backdrop to tell this story to the audience. 


Here You Come Again, is a show that has all your favourite Dolly hits, which all come together as one. To be honest going into the show I had a certain expectation of what I thought I was going to see, and lets just say after seeing the show it beat my expectations as it was a brilliant show. Here You Come Again is a must-see show, which is full of your favourite Dolly Songs! It’s an absolute joy, not just for Dolly Fan’s! 


★★★★★

Here You Come Again plays at the Leeds Playhouse until 8 June before heading out on a UK tour.




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